Amazon Debuts Redesigned Fire TV and Alexa Voice Remote
Amazon has revamped the Fire TV platform and begun pre-sales of a new Alexa Voice Remote. The voice assistant has an even more prominent role in controlling the smart television platform, with its logo on the voice remote for the first time.
Alexa Fired Up
Alexa was clearly top of mind for Amazon in redesigning Fire TV because it’s right at the top of the new voice remote. The Alexa log now sits on the button that turns on the remote’s microphone, replacing the more generic microphone icon previously used. That’s not the only sign of how the smart TV ecosystem has evolved. The shortcut buttons at the bottom still include Netflix, but Prime Video has been renamed to the more current Amazon Video, and where once there were buttons for HBO and PS Vue, users can now jump to Disney+ and Hulu. Disney and Amazon are clearly on much friendlier terms than they were before reaching an agreement to belatedly launch the Disney+ app on Fire TV. Hulu is also owned by Disney, which may be why the button isn’t for HBO+ or another rival service.
Amazon first hinted at the changes during its event last September, but there wasn’t much detail until now. The most obvious change on the TV itself is the home screen, which sets favorite channels and streaming services front and center. The new Find menu holds all of the content you’ve bought or rented, the app store, and Amazon’s recommendations for things to watch. The options will be personalized, too, with Fire TV holding up to six profiles that people can switch between to get their own preferences, rather than having to log out and back in again. Alexa is the key to operating the new system, according to Amazon. The voice assistant is what gets viewers to the content they want and can now understand commands to go to the Live TV or Find sub-menus.
“Alexa on Fire TV makes navigating the experience even easier. In fact, the all-new Fire TV experience was designed with Alexa at its core with some improved voice commands that give you better control of your entertainment,” Amazon wrote in its announcement. “Gone are the days of slow inputting something in search, letter by letter.”
The revamped Fire TV and remote are only the latest in a series of major upgrades to the platform, particularly Alexa’s range of control. The smart TV platform gave the voice assistant new hands-free controls last October that transformed the TV into more of an oversized smart display with more navigational commands. Fire TV owners also gained the option of connecting the TV with more of their Alexa account, allowing the TV to display personalized information, including calendars and local weather, as well as the ability to stream video feeds from connected cameras in the home. Alexa became even more powerful on Fire TVs a month later when Amazon enabled users to run routines, the combination of commands Alexa carries out from a single command. Most recently, the smart TV platform added wheels with the introduction of a version for cars. Beginning with the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer this month, the new Amazon Fire TV for Auto provides screens for passengers that connect to the streaming service and operates through Alexa.
Smart TVs are more competitive than ever, and voice plays a central part as brands jockey for position. All kinds of experiments and partnerships are emerging as a result. For instance, Verizon FiOS recently reached a deal to integrate Google Assistant into its service, while TiVo is sticking to its own AI but working with Pindrop Solutions to bring vocal recognition technology to its hardware. Still, Amazon can point to at least one entirely unique option for the new Fire TV remote. The company partnered with Disney to create covers for the remotes with The Mandalorian, a Disney+ show, as the theme.