Alexa seems to be inserting itself everywhere into our lives. You can use an Echo device to change your thermostat, start your car, order an Uber, or turn lights on and off. There are so many things you can do with Alexa, and it’s only expanding.
Today, Amazon announced expansions to its Video API and partnerships with many major TV companies. Soon, you’ll be able to say “Alexa, record Mythbusters” and the show will automatically be set to record on your DVR. Read on for more information.
Apple Smart Keyboard
The update today really expands Alexa’s video integration. With this update, you won’t have to use a specific skill name in order to invoke recording but instead can use regular wording. With the ability to say things like “Alexa, go to DVR” you can navigate directly to your recording interface.
With a DVR or other set-top box that supports online streaming like Netflix or Prime Video, you’ll be able to say “Alexa, Launch Prime Video” and have your TV automatically change. This feature has been available on some TVs for a while but generally required you to use a skill name before the command in order to be activated.
This update is really just about streamlining Alexa’s ability to make it more conversational. You’ll also be able to use playback commands like “Alexa, pause” to get your DVR to freeze the frame.
Though this could take some getting used to, and honestly might be a little longer than using normal remotes, it has its place. The remote is always being lost in my house, and it’s always when someone wants to get up to refill a drink or grab a snack that we can’t find it. Being able to just say “Alexa, pause” and then “Alexa, resume” will be really awesome.
Obviously, your TV provider will have to integrate Alexa with their systems, but so far DISH, Verizon, TiVo, and DIRECTV have all said that they will be exploring and integrating Alexa with their own DVR and entertainment systems.
This API is also now open to other developers so I would think that many companies, even someone like Plex, could integrate these commands with video playback platforms.
This type of integration can take time, even for larger companies, so don’t expect your DVR to be able to take Alexa commands tomorrow. But, with this announcement, I can only hope that many companies had a head start and will be releasing official skills very soon.
Today, we’re excited to introduce new additions to the Video Skill API – recording, launcher, and state reporting. Some or all of these new capabilities are supported by skill updates coming soon from video service providers such as DISH, Verizon, TiVo, and DIRECTV.
These additions are built on top of the Video Skill API and enable Alexa to interface with video content and services so customers can easily find and consume video content without invoking a specific skill. Through the Video Skill API, Alexa is aware of the video devices and services your customer has or subscribes to. You create skills that connect your applications directly to Alexa’s video capabilities so that customers can control your content—without lifting a finger.
Customers are increasingly using voice interfaces as a hands-free way to manage their lives. By using Alexa’s built-in video content controls, customers on millions of Alexa devices only have to “ask” for your content and it’s at their command, often becoming a daily habit. By integrating with the Video Skill API, you will make it easier for your existing customers to engage with your video content in their home.
How You and Your Customers Can Use These New Capabilities
The new recording capability of the Video Skill API enables customers to set and manage DVR recordings with their voice. Now a customer can simply ask, “Alexa, record the Mariners game,” and their live TV provider service will set the recording.
Launcher capability provides customers an easy way to launch apps and access commonly used menu and navigation shortcuts such as Guide, Home, DVR, and more. Now a customer can ask, “Alexa, launch Prime Video,” to navigate directly to the Prime Video app on their TV, and to move within a video provider’s controlling interface, customers can ask, “Alexa, go to DVR.”
State reporting allows you to send state updates to reflect your customers’ video playback status and enable implicitly targeted customer commands to accurately target your skill. For example, customers can simply say, “Alexa, pause,” without the need to explicitly invoke your skill’s name.
How It Works
The Video Skill API is available at the same top level that Alexa uses to build video experiences on Fire TV. This means your customers can open their favorite app and then use their Amazon Echo or other Alexa device to issue commands like “Alexa, find comedies,” “Alexa, tune to HBO,” or “Alexa, play episodes of Modern Family.” Customers can see the commands fulfilled instantly on their video devices.
The Video Skill API also includes a mechanism to enable catalog ingestion for improved accuracy and session management for request targeting based on real usage. The API offers simplified logic to handle requests to any one of potentially multiple video skills that a customer has set up, so your customers can make simple requests like “Alexa, play Manchester by the Sea,” and Alexa will know what to do.
How Companies Are Using the Video Skill API
Companies like DISH, Verizon, TiVo, and DIRECTV are already creating experiences using the Video Skill API to voice enable their customers’ video experiences.
“DISH customers love the convenience that our Alexa compatibility brings to their home entertainment,” said Niraj Desai, DISH vice president of product management. “With Amazon’s updates to the Video Skill API, DISH has the ability to deepen our Alexa integration and continue working toward providing our customers with a completely Hands-Free TV experience.”
“By integrating with Amazon’s Video Skill API, TiVo is making it even easier to control entertainment with your voice,” said Ted Malone, VP of Consumer Products and Services, TiVo. “Simply ask Alexa to change the TV channel using either the channel name or number. Pause, fast forward or rewind any of your live TV, DVR recordings and popular Internet streaming services.”