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Amazon Fire TV gains 4K YouTube, Alexa voice commands, more

18 May 2016 | Rasmus Larsen |

The Amazon Fire TV box will soon receive a software update that adds new useful voice commands for Alexa as well 4K streaming support in the YouTube app.

New features for Amazon Fire TV

The software update will be released “in the coming weeks”, says Amazon. It will first and foremost enable Alexa to do more. Through voice commands you will soon be able to say “Open HBO Now” to open the HBO app or say “Play Interstellar” to do universal search.

- “Customers have told us they love having the convenience of Alexa on their Amazon Fire TV,” said Tim Twerdahl, General Manager, Amazon Fire TV. “We’re excited to add new Alexa features to Fire TV, making it easier than ever to enjoy their favorite TV shows, movies, and apps.”

Interestingly the update also adds support for 4K streaming via YouTube. This has not previously been possible because Fire TV lacks hardware support for the VP9 compression format that Google has used to stream 4K video via YouTube. It is not clear how 4K streaming via YouTube will work on Fire TV but one possibility is that Google has decided to encode 4K video on YouTube in more formats than just VP9.

Fire TV

The list of new features include – in Amazon’s own words:
  • Launch apps using Alexa — Say “Open HBO Now” or “Launch Hulu” into the Fire TV Voice Remote to instantly open the app
  • Play Amazon Video and Add-On Subscription content from Starz, Showtime, and more using Alexa — Say “Play Interstellar,” or “Watch Veep” and get even easier access to your favorite TV shows and movies
  • Find local movie show times via Alexa — Ask “What movies are playing nearby?” or “Where is The Jungle Book playing?” to find out what movies are playing in theatres near you or specific movie times
  • YouTube 4K Ultra HD — Access YouTube’s full 4K library via the app on Amazon Fire TV when connected to a UHD-compatible TV
  • Search for local businesses and restaurants using Alexa — Ask “What Mexican restaurants are nearby?” to find restaurants around you or ask “What time does the nearest bank close?” to get convenient information on businesses nearby
  • Access Kindle e-books via Alexa — Say “Read The Nightingale” to listen to text-to-speech enabled books from your Kindle library through Amazon Fire TV

    Amazon adds that Fire TV remains the number 1 selling media player in the US as of March 2016 (no data for April 2016 yet).

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