Amazon wants to see more consumers using their voices to control their TVs this holiday season.
This week, it announced a new $35 product, the Fire TV Blaster, which acts as a universal remote of sorts, by enabling TVs that don't have voice access to respond to Alexa. It will be available Dec. 11.
The advantages of voice versus clicking are substantial, says Amazon vice-president Sandeep Gupta, who stopped by the Los Angeles USA TODAY bureau for a Talking Tech audio interview.
Voice is a more "flexible," experience and completes the task with less bother, he says. For example, say the viewer wanted to watch "Stranger Things" on Netflix.
Old way: Turn on the TV, use the remote to go to the input for streaming, open the Netflix app, search for "Stranger Things," then click play.
Amazon's way: "Alexa, play 'Stranger Things.'"
"We can do it all in one single command," says Gupta. "The same thing that took us five other steps to do."
But how does Alexa know episode to bring you to? "Stranger Things" has three seasons of content.
Gupta says if you've never seen the show before, it will start you at episode 1, or if you have viewed, take you to the next episode in the series to watch.
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Amazon's popular Fire TV streaming products (the No. 2 and No. 3 best-selling products in last year's Black Friday holiday promotions) can currently be paired with an Amazon Echo speaker to bring in voice controls on smart TVs with voice functionality.
For those who don't have them, in comes the Blaster. Amazon notes that you'll need an Echo and Fire TV streaming player, all three, to work as advertised. Echo and Fire TV streamers started at around $25 in last year's holiday promos.
The Blaster uses Infrared (IR) to control TVs, soundbars, satellite and cable boxes.
For those who already have an Echo and Fire TV, the Blaster will add hands-free voice control to what you could already fo with the Alexa voice remote.
Amazon released the $119 Fire TV Cube in 2018, which offers many similar features, but has the addition of a built-in speaker.
Consumers can pick up the Blaster for a third of the price, sans the speaker and advanced home theater tools.
Popular voice Alexa commands for TV:
—Turn on and off the TV.
—Raise the volume
—Go back, go forward.
—Show me 4K movies
You can request comedies, dramas, or movies by naming the actor.
The feature it can't do, one consumers would easily crave, is "Alexa, skip the commercials."
"No," says Gupta, flatly.