Amazon’s new Fire TV Cube: Hands free control of your TV setup

From the Fire TV Cube product page:

  • Fire TV Cube is the first hands-free streaming media player with Alexa, delivering an all-in-one entertainment experience. From across the room, just ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, and play what you want to watch.

  • With far-field voice recognition, eight microphones, and beamforming technology, Fire TV Cube hears you from any direction. Enjoy hands-free voice control—search, play, pause, fast forward, and more. Plus, control your TV, sound bar, cable or satellite box, receiver, and more with just your voice.

  • Do more with Alexa. Fire TV Cube has a built-in speaker that lets you check the weather, listen to the news, control compatible smart home devices, and more—even with the TV off. Fire TV Cube is always getting smarter with new Alexa skills and voice functionality.

  • Experience 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.

This seems like a major move into the living room for Amazon, and a much more direct threat to Apple TV and, more subtly, an attack on HomePod.

To get a sense of this, try to use your Apple TV with just your voice. No remote allowed, not even to turn it on. Though there are workarounds, including configurations where you can use your HomePod to turn on your Apple TV, most people will get nowhere with this challenge. And that’s the point.

HomePod is designed with Apple Music in mind, with a secondary nod to Siri. The Fire TV Cube, starting at $119.99, brings a full-fledged Alexa to the living room, designed specifically to control your TV, a direct replacement for your Apple TV.

Though you don’t get the deep access to the Apple ecosystem, you do get access to Alexa (and the growing list of 3rd party Alexa skills), and you can control the whole thing with your voice, no remote needed.

Looking forward to seeing the next generation of Apple TV. Will Apple somehow use HomePod as a bridge to bring this hands-free capability to Apple TV? Not sure that’d be enough, since my HomePod lives far from my TV. I’m hoping for built-in far-field mics in the Apple TV itself.