Amazon is making it easier to use Alexa to do more than launch apps and streaming services on Fire TV devices, but to also navigate once inside them. The company confirmed it quietly launched an update specifically for Fire TV Cube devices that allows device owners to use Alexa instead of a remote control for doing things like making profile selections, moving up and down or left and right, as well as selecting items.
In other words, Fire TV Cube owners can now use Alexa to navigate their Fire TV, with no remote control required.
The feature began its rollout a few weeks ago, the company told TechCrunch, but reached all Fire TV Cube devices around a week ago. AFTVNews was the first spot the new navigation option in the wild.
According to Amazon, the decision to enable Alexa to take place of a remote control was based on customer feedback.
“We got a deeper understanding that customers want the ability to use their voice to select, browse and navigate through their favorite apps, just like they can on the Fire TV home screen,” a spokesperson said.
To use the feature inside an app, you can say things like “Alexa, go up,” “Alexa, move right,” or “Alexa, scroll down,” then pick what you want to watch by saying “Alexa, select” (or “select this” or “select that.”)
“Think of it like a d-pad for you voice,” the spokesperson added.
The voice navigation is already supported across a range of apps, including Hulu, Netflix, ESPN, HBO Go, HBO Now, FOX Now, FXNow, ABC, FilmStruck, Boomerang, Tubi TV, Red Bull TV, Cartoon Network, Hallmark Movies Now, DramaFever, The CW, and CW Seed, with more being added regularly.
While it could be a bit awkward to use Alexa to browse through many screens of content – the way you do when in search of something to watch – if you’re just moving down a couple of rows to resume a show on Netflix, for example, it’s less of a bother.
The feature could also be useful from an accessibility standpoint, as it provides a way to navigate through the Fire TV interface without having to grip a remote and use your fingers and/or thumb to press buttons. And it could help users with low vision, who have trouble seeing the correct buttons on the remote.
Fire TV Cube hands-free navigation demo, courtesy AFTVnews on YouTube
Unfortunately, the new voice navigation is a Fire TV Cube-only feature for now. The feature was enabled on Fire TV devices over the past few weeks, but a software update began to roll out on October 19 which includes an explanation to end users, so they’re aware of the new functionality. Amazon didn’t say if or when it would arrive on other Fire TV platforms.