Amazon already offers Alexa voice control to TV owners through its Fire TV devices, by way of a voice remote or by pairing an Echo device with a Fire TV, for hands-free voice commands. Now, it’s introducing a new device, the Fire TV Blaster, which extends that same hands-free voice control to your TV itself and other TV devices — like your soundbar, cable box, or A/V Receiver.
That means you’ll be able to say things like “Alexa, turn off the TV,” or “Alexa, switch to HDMI 1 on TV.” You can also control the volume and the playback.
And if you have other TV devices, you can control them hands-free as well, by saying things like “Alexa, turn up the soundbar volume,” or “Alexa to ESPN on cable.”
The Fire TV Blaster is designed to be added to the mix when you’re already using an Echo paired with a Fire TV. The idea is to make it possible to go 100% hands-free, in terms of controlling your devices with your voice, no matter what your particular setup is like.
Amazon says customers use Alexa more when they don’t have to push a button on their remote. For instance, when customers use the Fire TV Cube, which offers hands-free voice control, they use Alexa 8 times more often. But the Fire TV Cube is more expensive — and a bulky, big cube isn’t the aesthetic everyone wants in their living room. Plus, many customers already own a Fire TV Stick or other Fire TV device, and just want to extend its functionality.
That’s where the Fire TV Blaster would come in.
The new device arrives at a time when Amazon Fire TV isn’t only competing against Roku as the media player (or TV OS) of choice among consumers — it’s also competing for control of the whole living room. Thanks to Roku’s recent launches of its smart soundbar and wireless subwoofer, at various price points, as well as its wireless speakers, Roku wants to more of the market. Amazon has countered with the launch of its own soundbar and other devices.
Many consumers like to buy devices from all the same brand because they know the devices have been designed to work well with one another — like the HomePod and Apple TV or the Echo Studio and Fire TV, or the Roku and its speakers.
But many others have a hodgepodge of devices from various manufacturers. If they don’t want to swap them out, the Fire TV Blaster can just work with them instead, while keeping the customer in the Amazon family.
The Fire TV Blaster includes a power cord (micro-USB), wired infrared support / IR extender cable, and support for 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wi-fi. It works with the Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen) with Alexa Voice Remote (2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen) with Alexa Voice Remote (1st Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV (3rd Gen), Fire TV Cube (1st Gen and 2nd Gen), and any Echo speaker or smart display.
The device is available for $34.99 in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Germany and ships on December 11, Amazon says. You can also buy it in a bundle for $79.99 with a Fire TV Stick 4K and Echo Dot.