Amazon adds two-way video calling to the Fire TV Cube

Amazon Fire TV Cube two-way video calling
Amazon

A new feature rolling out starting today will let you make two-way Alexa video calls from a 2nd-generation Fire TV Cube-connected TV to any Alexa-enabled device with a screen, the Fire TV team announced. That includes tablets, phones, and devices like the Echo Show. The new feature is launching initially in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To take advantage of two-way video calls, Fire TV Cube owners will need a compatible webcam and a USB-to-micro-USB adapter because the Fire TV Cube lacks a full-size USB-A port. The Fire TV team says a webcam with a minimum spec of 720p video at 30 frames per second will work, but recommends models that can do 1080p resolution and that have a 60- to 90-degree field of view from 6 to 10 feet away from the TV; 4K webcams are not recommended.

Once the webcam is set up and your Fire TV Cube has the latest software update (which is rolling out over the next few weeks), you can initiate and control video calls using Alexa commands.

To start a call, say “Alexa, call Julie’s Echo,” for example. If you receive a call while watching TV, an on-screen alert will let you know. To answer, just say, “Alexa, answer.”

Much like video calling with Zoom, new calls begin with video turned off. To turn on video, say, “Alexa, video on,” or use the menu or down button on the Fire TV remote to turn on video. During the call, you can adjust volume by saying, “Alexa volume up/down.” Video automatically turns off when the call ends. If the person you’re calling doesn’t have a screen and a camera, the call will be audio-only.

Two-way or even multiway video calling is something most of us are now familiar with thanks to the ongoing pandemic that has reshaped our work and social lives. But most of these calls are conducted on our smartphones, laptops, tablets, or desktop computers. Few of us use the biggest screen — our TVs — mostly because there is no easy and consistent way to do so. Amazon’s announcement doesn’t entirely change that — the feature only works with Amazon’s calling platform at the moment — but it’s a step in the right direction.

Amazon didn’t address privacy concerns in its blog post, but it’s an issue prospective users should be thinking about. A Fire TV device connects to the internet and is therefore a possible target for hackers. We strongly recommend buying a webcam with a privacy cover or buying a third-party cover to ensure that the camera can’t be used to view your home without your consent. Here’s how to tell if your webcam has been hacked.

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