Amazon is debuting a new way for cable providers and media streaming companies to bring its popular voice assistant Alexa to their services.
On Thursday, Amazon said that a new set of tools will let customers use any Alexa voice activated Amazon device, such as home automation device Echo, to control commands on a TV. For example, customers could ask Alexa, "Alexa, tune to HBO," or "Alexa, play episodes of House of Cards."
The Amazon Echo, which the company debuted in 2015, is a tall cylinder that includes a speaker and supports Alexa, which answers questions, plays music on-command, and orders groceries, among other tasks. Amazon has also added Alexa to its line of tablets.
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Amazon says that cable providers can use the new Alexa tool allow customers to navigate channels, search for and play content; and pause, rewind, and fast-forward content using their voice commands. Cable providers or media streaming companies would need to add the new technology to their internet-connected boxes in order to let customers access these features.
Satellite TV provider Dish Network is one of the first providers to add the new technology, letting its customers ask Alexa to change the TV channel, search the channel guide for specific shows, and fast forward through commercials.
It's worth noting that many cable and media streaming services already provide voice activation in their remote controls. Comcast, for example, allows you to press a button on its remote control to use voice to ask to change channels or search for TV content. The remote control for Apple's streaming device, Apple TV, is integrated with its voice assistant Siri, letting users ask Siri but pressing a button on the control.
The key differentiator for using Amazon's Alexa voice control is that it's a hands-free experience. So customers would not need to press a button and would only need to speak their command to their Alexa-enabled device, such as the Echo.
But Alexa is also starting to be integrated in remote controls for TVs. Consumer technology company Element Electronics began selling a new lineup of televisions a few weeks ago that includes a remote control with Alexa integration.