Amazon upgrades Fire TV’s ‘hands-free’ TV experience, powered by Alexa

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Along with Amazon’s numerous Echo-related announcements today regarding new devices, the company also said it would soon be extending and improving its hands-free TV viewing experience to a range of video partners, including big names in streaming services like Hulu, PlayStation Vue, CBS All Access, Showtime and others.

Prior to now, Amazon had been working on making Alexa a voice-based remote control of sorts for watching television, initially through partnerships with traditional TV providers, like Dish, and then later by working with the makers of smart home devices, like the Logitech Harmony, to allow viewers to control TVs, AV receivers, IR hubs and more through the Alexa platform.

The Fire TV in August was updated to work with Echo for remote control-free channel changing — a variation on the ability the Fire TV’s remote earlier offered.

Today, Amazon said it’s expanding its support for hands-free TV yet again, this time by working  with new video partners as well as existing ones to extend their integrations with Alexa on Fire TV. Among the supported partners the company mentioned by name were Hulu, Showtime, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, CBS All Access, NBC, Bravo, CNBC and NBC News.

The idea is that you’ll be able to ask Alexa to tune to a particular video source or request a favorite show, within the third-party video streaming services you subscribe to. So instead of saying, “Alexa, launch Hulu,” or “Alexa, open Hulu,”  you could say “Alexa, change the channel to NBC in Hulu.” Another way of putting it could be something like, “Alexa, play ‘Ray Donovan’ in Showtime.”

You’ll also be able to use your voice to rewind and fast forward through a program, in addition to playing content.

You can even specify how far back or forward you want to go as seconds or minutes by saying things like “Alexa, go back 13 seconds” or “Alexa, forward two minutes.”

Hulu confirmed this afternoon its support for the new voice functionality will arrive this fall, allowing customers to pair a Fire TV and Echo device, then use Alexa to control the experience. The rollout of other supported partner integrations may vary.

Of course, CBS has already been having a little fun with Alexa before today. It just kicked off the debut of the new “Star Trek: Discovery” TV show on its streaming service with the launch of an Alexa-powered “Star Trek” skill and other Easter eggs, like saying “Computer,” (yes, you can change the Echo wake word), “red alert.” Or “Computer, beam me up,” among other commands.