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Overview for Voice-enabling Your App and Content

With the release of Fire TV Cube, customers can interact with their TVs in a hands-free way (an interaction referred to as "far-field control"). They can ask Alexa to play content, search for content, control playback, and change channels on their Fire TV using voice. Even without Fire TV Cube, if users link their Alexa-enabled device (such as an Echo or Echo Dot) with Fire TV, they can also interact with content and control playback in a similar hands-free way. Or using the Alexa Voice Remote, customers can interact with their TV by pressing down the voice button.

To support voice interactions on Fire TV, it's becoming increasingly important that you voice-enable your apps. There are several techniques for voice-enabling your app: Video Skills API, Media Session API, and In-App Voice Scrolling and Selection.

Key Terms

Integrating with Alexa introduces some terms that might be unfamiliar. The following glossary defines some of these terms.

Video Skills

You can create an Alexa video skill for your Fire TV app so that customers can use natural language commands to search for your app's content, launch your app, control media playback, change the channel, and more. Implementing the video skill involves building a Lambda to support the directives from Alexa, integrating the Alexa Client Library, handling cloud-to-app communication through ADM, and more. Catalog integration is a requirement to implement video skills for your Fire TV app. To get started, see Video Skills for Fire TV Apps Overview.

Integrating a video skill for your Fire TV app gives customers the following capabilities:

  • App launching: When a customer asks to play or search for specific content, Alexa automatically launches the correct Fire TV app. When customers say "Alexa, open <app name>," they are directed to the app’s homepage. The video skill automatically enables the Alexa Video Skill API to launch the app.
  • Quick play: Customers can ask Alexa to play video by saying, "Alexa, play <show name> " or "Alexa, play <show name> on <app name>. Alexa routes the user to the correct app with that content, and Fire TV begins playback automatically (rather than just going to the detail page).
  • Search: Customers can ask Alexa to perform universal searches for content by saying "Alexa, find <show name>." Searches like this, which don't limit the scope to an app, are called "universal searches," since they look for the content across all catalog-integrated Fire TV apps. Searches that limit their scope to a specific app are called "local searches." Customers can also perform local searches by saying "Alexa, find <show name> on <app name>" or "Alexa, find <genre> on <app name>."
  • Transport Controls: Customers can control playback via voice through utterances such as "Alexa, fast forward", "Alexa, fast forward 5 minutes", "Alexa, next", "Alexa, previous", as well as rewind, pause, resume, and stop.
  • Channel Change: For apps that offer live TV functionality, customers can switch between channels through utterances such as "Alexa, tune to <app name>".

Integrating a video skill into your Fire TV app makes it easier for customers to discover and play your content.

Media Session API

If you don't have the bandwidth or resources to implement a video skill, or if your planned implementation is some months into the future, you can voice-enable the media playback controls in your app using the Media Session API. Media Session is an Android API that allows streaming applications to receive media commands, and it's the recommended best practice for handling events from remote controls, Bluetooth, ADB, the Fire TV companion app, and more.

Integrating Media Session allows customers to say commands such as "Play," "Pause," "Rewind," etc, during media playback. These commands work in both near field and far field devices. Media Session won't let users perform the more advanced voice controls described in the Video Skill API, where you can launch apps, search for content, and more through voice. Media Session integration just voice-enables the playback controls.

If you've already implemented Media Session in your app (most developers have), there's little to no extra work to voice-enable Media Session. You just add a special Alexa permission to your app manifest. Full details are available here: Voice-enabling Transport Controls with MediaSession API.

If you're new to Media Session and don't yet have it integrated into your app yet, see this tutorial: Implementing Voice Control with the Media Session API on Amazon Fire TV.

In-app Scrolling and Selection

Fire TV Cube allows users to perform scrolling and selection using common Alexa phrases. The in-app voice scrolling and selection works by mapping D-pad navigation events to your voice commands. D-pad refers to the remote control's directional keypad, which is used to scroll right, left, up, and down. Alexa converts these voice commands into D-pad navigation events that are sent to the app.

In-app scrolling and selection is a feature that Amazon manually activates on the back-end for apps, after ensuring that the app will support the commands. Amazon is gradually increasing the number of apps with scrolling and selection enabled. For more details, see In-App Voice Scrolling and Selection.