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Amazon Expands Alexa Voice Commands With the Fire TV Cube

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Amazon released a new connected TV device today, the Fire TV Cube, and with it brings a new level of voice control to the living room. While both the company's Fire TV Stick and Fire TV With 4K Ultra HD offer Alexa integration for remote control functions, the Fire TV Cube expands voice integration to the TV and cable box. When connected to supported devices, the Cube can power up a television, change channels, and even directly go to a program all through voice commands. 

The Cube includes HDMI, infrared, and micro USB ports and can connect to a TV, sound bar, receiver, and cable box. While compact (it measures 3.4- by 3.4- by 3.0-inches), the Cube houses eight microphones that can hear commands spoken across the room and even tune out audio playing through a TV or sound bar right next to it. As Amazon explains, the Cube uses far-field voice recognition and advanced beamforming technology to ignore distracting audio and clearly hear requests. While StreamingMedia.com hasn't yet had hands-on time with the Cube, feedback from those who have is that it performs as advertised. 

More than just a TV box, the Cube integrates with other Alexa devises on the same network, letting owners view security cam video on their TVs, for example. If the owners asks for a weather forecast or sports scores, the Cube will display visual information on the TV screen.

Much of the Cube's success will depend on how many living room devices it supports and how easy it is to set up. At launch it will work with boxes from Comcast, Dish, and DirecTV. Amazon says it supports devices used in over 90 percent of households with cable or satellite subscriptions. 

"For consumers with dexterity issues, voice control can be a godsend. For everyone else, navigating the full TV interface by voice is going to be clunky," says Avi Greengart, research director for consumer platforms and devices at GlobalData. "I expect it will be used primarily for the most basic functions, where voice reduces complexity: walking into a room and asking Alexa to 'watch the NBA Finals' is vastly easier than finding the remote, choosing the right buttons, trying to remember which channel is broadcasting the show you want to watch, and then navigating to it. Historically, A/V automation has been challenging, and I'm expecting Amazon to have some hiccups at launch. However, the Fire TV Cube is such a good value as a combined Echo and Fire TV box that most buyers will consider voice control of their TV setup as a bonus."

The Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order now, and will ship with an IR extender cable and Ethernet adapter when it rolls out on June 21. While the list price will be $119.99, Amazon Prime members who pre-order today or tomorrow can get it for $89.99.

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