Amazon eyes more contextual voice controls for Fire TV apps

Dan Rayburn (left) talks with Amazon's Jason Parrish (right) during the Streaming Summit at NAB Show New York. (FierceVideo)

NEW YORK – Amazon Fire TV Cube’s hands-free Alexa voice controls have already attracted a lot of streaming app partners but it’s still early days in terms of what can be accomplished.

Jason Parrish, head of product management at Amazon Fire TV, said that his company has more than double the number of Fire TV Cube partners since launching the first edition of the device last year. But he said that customers still wonder about what they should be saying to Alexa, prompting Amazon to consider offering voice tips directly within partner apps.

Parrish said that is increasingly difficult for customers to navigate across all the content. Amazon’s platform can handle basic voice functions like search and play titles but when partners like Hulu design specifically for Alexa integration it drives more consumption on those platforms.

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Amazon is looking at ways to grow consumption even further by evolving voice commands to make them more natural and contextual. The company introduced the “Follow-Up” feature to make the microphones stay open after certain commands so users don’t have to continually say the awake word to their devices.

Parrish also said that consumers expect Alexa to know what’s on the screen and that Amazon often provides that context when it can.

“But when we go into an app like Netflix, it’s kind of a black box,” he said.

Parrish said voice command options need to become more contextually aware so consumers can, for example, say they want the third option that appears on screen.

Amazon recently announced a partnership with Discovery Inc. to create Food Network Kitchen, a streaming video app that heavily uses Alexa voice controls to provide users with more hands-free interactive elements.

Amazon also recently announced a second generation Fire TV Cube – which rolled out in the U.S. as well as Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.K. – that has faster voice controls.