Amazon is launching the first hands-free streaming media player, the Fire TV Cube. Shipping on this revolutionary product starts June 21st, but you can pre-order now. The new device is roughly shaped like a cube, about 4-inches all the way around. The cube will fit into your collective entertainment system and communicate with the hive mind seamlessly. I can’t help but make a Star Trek TNG reference to the Borg.
The Fire TV Cube is a hybrid of two wildly successful Amazon products into a single set-top box: the Fire TV streaming player an Echo speaker, with an infrared reader thrown in. What makes it revolutionary isn’t the fact that you can control your TV via voice, because Fire TV and others have been doing that with combinations of hardware and skills.
What is revolutionary is that the Fire TV Cube enables voice control of your entertainment system from start to finish, no hub or external devices required. It’s so easy your grandma could do it. The whole bundle sells for $119.99.
The newly released device contains all of the features of Fire TV, plus the far-field microphones and other components of an Echo device, and an infrared sensor combine to deliver every entertainment option you have. It’s the first set-top box to reliably unify control for all of your entertainment devices with a single interface – voice.
Just like the standard Fire TV, the Cube delivers true-to-life picture quality and sound with access to vivid 4K Ultra HD up to 60 fps, HDR, and the audio clarity of Dolby Atmos for most streaming services. What’s new in the device is an Ethernet port, double the previous storage at 16 GB, and a built-in speaker. The built-in infrared sensor allows the Fire TV Cube to link multiple devices together and control them all through voice command.
You’ll be able to stream any service, listen to music, access YouTube, scroll through Facebook, and more. Early adopters will receive a $10 credit for Prime Video as well as a discounted subscription to Amazon Music.
The Fire TV Cube allows you to enjoy hands-free voice control of your smart home and your entertainment library. You can search and browse content, play, pause, and resume shows and movies. The Fire TV Cube can also control your compatible TV, sound bar, set-top box, receiver, streaming device, and more. Turn on your TV, select a channel, and turn the volume up. Then, ask Alexa to dim the lights, set the temperature, and order a pizza. You won’t have to lift a finger.
Those familiar with an Echo or Dot will recognize the four top-mounted buttons immediately, arranged in the same configuration. The buttons are tactile controls for increasing and decreasing Volume, a Mute function, and an Action Button which prepares the device for pairing and forces interaction.
There is also a remote control for the Fire TV Cube bundled with your purchase. You can opt to use the handheld device to navigate on-screen rather than voice. As with all Alexa-enabled devices, you can interact with the Fire TV Cube using the free mobile Alexa app.
Everyone knows how much we love Alexa around here. Fire TV Cube can perform all of the functions you’re accustomed to in an Echo device. You can check the weather, review your calendar, and control smart home devices even if the TV screen is off. Interactions are conducted in the same way you would perform them on a non-video enabled Alexa device.
An exciting new development you can expect on the Fire TV Cube is new video features. All of the Alexa Skills developed for the Echo Show have been converted to work on the big screen. You’ll be able to watch video flash briefings, see sports scores, see weather forecasts, and see smart-home camera feeds.
Expect more video-compatible Alexa Skills to be released in the coming weeks as developers have an opportunity to see the possibilities and create new skills.
Easier to use than the standard Fire TV
The standard Fire TV 4K Ultra HD device, which sells for $69.99, lets you use voice control through a handheld button-enabled remote. You can also choose to control a Fire TV with your Echo device.
Integrating the Echo components within the Fire TV Cube makes for a more natural voice-based interaction. The Fire TV Cube fulfills one of the key goals of voice interfaces; it unifies the smart home, TV, and music experience by allowing users to control all of them with voice commands.
Voice queries become standard
Amazon is notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to sharing specific numbers of units sold and users. The company did release numbers on voice queries, saying that Fire TV users searched for information on Alexa half a billion times in 2017.
This shift in the way consumers are pursuing data is important. As voice-based inquiries become more popular, Google isn’t the only reference point. One trend I’ve noticed is that tech papers are quoting Alexa query numbers more often, which indicates to me that tech experts see a change in queries. Google’s algorithm is no longer all-powerful, controlling what information people see.
Alexa gains traction in home use
Amazon also released information about hours spent by consumers using Alexa on their Fire TV devices. It’s nearly doubled over the past nine months. Having that coveted set-top box spot and integrating the most powerful voice assistant might prove to be a game changer for the World’s Largest Bookstore.
The revolutionary product isn’t the Fire TV Cube itself. The revolution is taking control of your entire entertainment system and unifying it all under one digital assistant’s voice control. It’s the most important place to occupy in the new voice-first world.
“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us.”