In addition to a new lineup of Alexa-enabled devices, Amazon at its fall event today also introduced a series of Alexa updates aimed at users of its Echo Show devices with a screen. The features include those focused on entertainment — like bringing Fire TV to Echo Show 15 — as well as others for personalizing the Alexa experience, staying in touch with family, and more.
The company has been working to push Alexa device owners to use the virtual assistant for more than just the basic tasks — like setting alarms or timers, asking for the weather or news, or managing their smart home. Some of today’s updates push into new areas that haven’t gained as much traction, like shopping and communication, while others augment more standard features in new ways.
But one of the biggest updates is the addition of Fire TV on the existing Echo Show 15 in the U.S., allowing users to stream not only Amazon’s own video content, but also from third-party providers like Paramount+ and Showtime for the first time. It will also now be able to access the content you want to see via Alexa, as you can simply ask the assistant to play a show by its title, rather than worrying about which service it’s on. For instance, if you say “Alexa, play ‘The Rings of Power,'” it will launch the program or pick up where you left off.
While thousands of streaming apps can be controlled via Alexa, Amazon says there are over 70 partners who have made an effort to more deeply integrate voice into their streaming apps to allow customers to do things like play, pause, stop, rewind, search and more.
Amazon prioritized bringing Fire TV to Echo Show 15 because it found that the device is already being used in customers’ homes in some sort of central location, like the kitchen or family room, and over 70% of device owners had used it to watch videos in the last month.
The company could not yet say if it would make Fire TV available to other Echo Show devices in a later update.
A new Fire TV widget will be available, too, allowing users to view shortcuts to recently streamed apps, recently watched content, and their personal watchlist.
And to browse Fire TV, you can either use your voice, touch the screen, or even pair the device with the Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote (3rd Gen.), Amazon notes. This remote — the same that ships with Fire TV today — will be offered as an add-on and later, in a bundle.
Outside of streaming Fire TV on the Echo Show 15, the Echo Show lineup more broadly will also gain other enhancements.
One is a new feature aimed at entertaining children, dubbed Creative AI. By following prompts on the screen, kids will be able to either choose or customize an animated character like a pirate, monster or astronaut, and Alexa will then create a story for them to watch with visuals and music. Kids can use included templates and other A.I features to customize the story so it’s personalized to them.
Another new feature will allow Echo Show device owners to use the device to share video messages with others in their home. This could serve as an alternative to leaving a Post-it note on a fridge, for instance. To use the feature, you can say something like “Alexa, make a video note” or “Alexa, record a sticky note.” The message will be displayed on the Echo Show screen or viewed in the Alexa mobile app.
The company will try to encourage Echo Show users to shop through the device with a “Shop the Look” feature that will allow them to describe the fashion item they want to see, like “Alexa, show me green yoga pants,” or “Alexa, show me similar pants with pockets.”
Two other features aim to better personalize the device and its content to end users — and are not limited to Echo Show, in fact.
One will allow multi-person households will be able to kick off Alexa Routines — a way to combine tasks into a single voice command — using the same start phrase as someone else in their household. For example, partners may both have a routine that begins by saying “Alexa, good morning.” This feature will leverage Alexa Profiles to return personalized results within Routines for things like calendar updates, music, and traffic reports.
Alexa will also now include weather insights into users’ calendar views and can send notifications about rain or snow up to 10 days out.
The company additionally ported the Echo Show’s call captioning feature to the Alexa app in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil, supported in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, it said.
Amazon said the features will arrive via a software update this year