We've been waiting to see deeper integrations between voice assistants and media playback this year. Today, Amazon took a step in that direction with new upgrades for the software that powers Alexa's video skills.
Specifically, that software will now let Alexa record programs with a simple voice command, a la, "Alexa, record the Reds game." New "state" controls should also make it easier for Alexa to distinguish when you're watching something, which lets developers craft skills that let you control what you're watching using simple commands like "Alexa, pause" that don't need any extra, awkward invocation phrasing.
You'll also be able to launch streaming apps and commonly used menu navigations like "home" and "guide" using phrases like, "Alexa, launch Prime Video."
The new controls are based on the same top-level voice controls Amazon uses for Fire TV. Amazon says that the new software can handle multiple video skills at once, so simple commands like, "Alexa, play 'La La Land'" shouldn't trip her up just because you've got a couple of video skills enabled. As an Alexa user and a confessed couch potato, I'll certainly look forward to testing that out.
Amazon says that services like Dish, TiVo, DirectTV and Verizon are already creating newly refined Alexa controls for their streaming video services, and more stand to follow. Deeper controls could also be coming for Alexa-compatible smart TV sets from brands like Vizio, which added support for Alexa .