New Amazon Fire TV stick brings Alexa voice assistant to UK TV screensXtensions Of Me
Faster, more powerful streaming device comes with Alexa and voice control, turning almost any TV smart – despite only being little larger than a flash drive
Amazon is bringing its Alexa voice assistant to British televisions with a £40 Fire TV stick that turns almost any TV into a smart streaming box.
The new Fire TV stick comes with a voice-enabled remote, giving users access to voice controls and search for movies, music and TV shows. But it will also perform Alexa’s other skills, allowing users to check their commute, get a weather forecast and to answer questions and control smart home devices by speaking into the remote and showing new so called video cards with information on screen.
Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice president of Amazon Devices International, said that the company’s focus with the new Fire TV stick was on performance and speed, making it 30% faster than the old device, to provide a smooth, rich and voice-controlled experience in a package barely larger than a flash drive.
He said: “Fire TV was the number one selling item on Amazon in the UK in 2016, and now we’ve made it faster and given it the best of Alexa.”
The new Fire TV stick, which goes on order today for £40 and ships on 6 April, will be the first of Amazon’s smart TV boxes to gain access to Alexa in the UK. Until now, users have been restricted to a more basic voice-recognition search. It will also come with Amazon’s new version of its Fire TV interface, which has been cleaned up, modernised and made faster..
Netflix subscribers looking for Breaking Bad using voice search, for instance, will be shown the option to jump straight to Netflix, but will also be given the option to buy episodes from Amazon’s video store. Users will always be shown the option to watch searched-for content through one of their included subscriptions first, rather than always directed to buy media from Amazon.
This open mentality also means that third-party services can provide direct recommendations to users through an app- or service-specific recommendation carousel. Netflix is the first to provide such recommendations in the UK, but Amazon hopes to have similar recommendations from other third-party services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5, which all have apps available for the Fire TV.
Jason Parrish, principal product manager for Amazon Fire TV, said: “All we’re trying to do is match users to content they might like as fast and as smoothly as possible.”
The original Fire TV stick, like Amazon’s low-end Fire tablet, has been successful at attracting existing Amazon and new customers alike. It has been the top-selling streaming device in the UK for a while, helped by a complete selection of terrestrial broadcaster catchup services and a low price compared to the competition.
Alexa integration into the new £40 Fire TV stick now makes it the cheapest way to get access to Amazon’s hit voice assistant, which currently has the lead in the new technology battlefield of in-home voice control. Rival Google’s Home speaker has yet to be released in the UK, and is lagging behind.