Owners of an NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2015 and 2017) can now control their Android TV-powered device by using Alexa voice commands given to Amazon Echo devices. This has come about due to a new Alexa skill that’s been launched today which adds the support for SHIELD TV. As a result, owners of both SHIELD TV and an Echo device will now be able to use voice commands to navigate the SHIELD’s interface, as well start and stop playback of movies, music and shows. Coinciding with the launch of this Alexa skill, NVIDIA has confirmed SHIELD TV is also now gaining Dolby Atmos passthrough support for Prime Video - the video streaming service bundled in with a Prime membership. Resulting in an improved listening experience due to the inclusion of support for spatial audio when consuming videos specifically through Prime Video.
As another added benefit, NVIDIA and Amazon have now started a promotion which will likely appeal to both existing owners of a SHIELD TV unit and potential buyers. Those who have yet to buy the SHIELD will find if they do buy one before November 10 from either Amazon or Best Buy they will get an Amazon Echo Dot (third-gen) thrown in for free - a saving of $49.99 compared to purchasing both separately and at full price. While those who already own a SHIELD will benefit by way of an “exclusive discount” that can be applied to an Echo Dot purchase. Existing owners will need to be SHIELD Rewards members to get the discount as it will be sent out via email. NVIDIA has confirmed that both versions of the promotion are only available to owners and potential buyers based in the US. Although those who own both the SHIELD TV and an Echo device already are not getting any discounts (though they could use the exclusive discount to pick up another Echo Dot) sent their way, they can immediately make use of the new Alexa voice support.
Background: The NVIDIA SHIELD has become an entirely unique proposition as not only is it the most powerful Android TV device currently available, but the level of support it has received since launch is by a long margin unrivaled. As NVIDIA has consistently rolled out updates that bring new features to the experience and in some cases, revitalize the system. The Alexa support now officially being the most recent example of an update which adds significant value. What’s more, this is only the most recent support at the voice control level as the SHIELD TV already supports Google Assistant - both internally and externally. The Google Assistant relevant updates arrived earlier in the year and allow device owners the option to control various aspects of the SHIELD in the same way that's now been announced for Alexa. In addition, those who don’t have access to a dedicated Google Assistant-powered device can still make use of some Google Assistant functionality as the SHIELD itself was updated not long ago with a built-in version of the Assistant. Since the initial Google Assistant updates, NVIDIA and Google have also been working hard to improve the functionality with NVIDIA only recently confirming an even deeper integration between the two is now available.
With this latest Alexa voice addition support now available, this make the SHIELD even more unique than ever as NVIDIA took the support announcement to point out how the SHIELD is now “the only streamer you can control with both Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.” On a more wider point, this latest support adds to the suggestion NVIDIA is placing significant value on the control experience as one of the features that helps the SHIELD to stand out. For example, and in addition to the multiple voice assistant supports, NVIDIA also offers a separate remote control and gaming controller to suit different user needs, and even recently launched a new Android app that adds a further layer of control and support to account for those who want to utilize their smartphone as a controller.
Impact: This will be great news for current owners of a SHIELD who also happen to be invested in Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem as they have now gained a new way to rely on Alexa to control yet another product in the home. Which of course when coupled with the Google Assistant support means SHIELD owners now have an abundance of choice when it comes to how they control their device. Likewise, if you don’t own a SHIELD TV then this acts as another motivator for why you might want to consider picking one up. This is easily one of the most feature-rich devices on the market and one that has especially appealed to gamers in the past due to the added ability to play more demanding Android games, as well as the option to stream games through the company’s in-house gaming service.
For those who are already in possession of both devices, NVIDIA states to get the support up and running. Owners will need to head to the Alexa app, click the menu icon and then on “Skills & Games.” Once done the owner will need to type “NVIDIA SHIELD TV” into the search box and once visible click the relevant skill and then hit “Enable” to activate. From here it's just a matter of continuing with the setup process by entering the NVIDIA account details in the Alexa app followed by confirming which SHIELD device they would like to connect to which Echo device.
In terms of the command support, NVIDIA explains once the two devices are connected, Alexa will be able to turn the SHIELD on or off, adjust the volume (including by preset amounts such as 50-percent), launch specific apps including HBO NOW and Prime Video, control playing, pausing, forwarding and rewarding, as well as control various system-level actions - like opening the settings menu or returning home. These commands are also understood to be contextual so once you are in conversation with Alexa the user will not have to utilize the “on SHIELD” target reference with each subsequent command given - just the first. If all that is not quite enough command support, NVIDIA has confirmed these simply represent the commands supported at launch as the plan is to add more as times goes on. On a last point, it should be noted Alexa support has only become available to device owners based in the US - something else the company plans to expand on in due course.