Amazon, via its developer blog, has today announced an upgrade to the Video Skill API for Alexa which will see the voice assistant service mature in its ability to engage with, and control, TV-related services and features. Specifically, Amazon has now announced new recording, launcher, and state reporting, improvements.
For the end user, the recording improvement is likely to be the most impacting as Amazon has confirmed Alexa is now — at the technical level — gaining the ability to control digital video recorder (DVR) functionality. This essentially means the user will be able to ask Alexa to record a specific program, and Alexa will comply through an associated TV provider service. The launcher aspect is fairly straightforward as Alexa is gaining the ability to launch TV and video-based apps, in a similar way to the current support offered to Fire TV. As well as more easily move from one part of an app to another – for example, from the main home screen to the "recordings" screen. The state reporting improvement means Alexa will now be able to 'know' the current state of a user in respect of whether they are watching TV and on what device, and respond to commands related to this action when requested. In other words, users will be able to pause what they are watching simply by asking Alexa to "pause" and without having to pad out the command with device-specific information..
As this is an upgrade to the Video Skill API, the announcement today is more aimed towards developers than end users, although it does provide insight to those users of what they can expect Alexa to be able to do in the future. Therefore, the ability to make use of any or all of these new features will still depend on when the developers behind any particular app/service integrating the new improvements with their existing app or skill solutions. Though, for some higher-profile options this is likely to happen soon with Amazon also confirming the likes of DIRECTV, DISH, TiVo, and Verizon are already working on implementing some or all of the new features in their respective services.