Skip to main content

Alexa will soon be able to control more of your TVs, apps, and set-top boxes

Image used with permission by copyright holder
Amazon’s Alexa assistant can’t acquiesce to any request, but that’s not to suggest it isn’t capable. It’s got tracks from Spotify on tap, plus Philips Hue controls, seven-day weather forecasts, and your local supermarket’s Saturday hours. If there’s one area Alexa’s been lacking, though, it’s video — controlling your TV with Alexa isn’t exactly easy. But that’s changing with the introduction of Amazon’s new Video Skill API, which makes it simpler for content creators to add stop, start, and other playback controls to Alexa’s ever-growing skill set.

When a software developer invokes the Video Skill API, it gets a wealth of playback controls at its disposal. These includes basic commands like play, pause, and volume adjustment, but also a search tool that sifts through titles, actors, and genres. The Video Skill API’s features don’t stop there — it also keeps track of the services you’ve enabled, doing away with the need to specify a content provider or device when you want to watch something. And unlike most other Alexa apps, skills that tap into the Video Skill API don’t require an invocation phrase — if you have at least one enabled, you can say commands like, “Alexa, play John Wick,” and it’ll queue up on the nearest TV.

Amazon is launching a promotion to spur development of Video Skill-enabled apps — app developers who publish skills by the end of this month get a free Echo Dot speaker — but the Video Skill API is launching with few early adopters. Dish Network, which announced an Alexa skill that lets the cable company’s subscribers change channels, search for shows and pause, and fast-forward, and rewind, will be among the first to take advantage. YouView and NetGem in the U.K. will follow suit later this month.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Video Skill API’s rollout couldn’t have been timed better. In March, the Seattle-based retailer teamed up with TV maker Element to launch the first Alexa-enabled smart television. And on June 28, it will begin shipping the Echo Show, an Alexa-powered speaker with a touchscreen display, camera, and high-quality stereo speakers.

But Amazon’s playing catch-up, too. Google’s eponymous Google Home speaker works in tandem with Google Cast-enabled devices to beam music, YouTube videos, and Netflix shows around your house. And Apple’s upcoming HomePod, a Siri-enabled speaker with high-quality audio, sports AirPlay 2, Apple’s new-and-improved wireless streaming standard supporting multi-room audio, streaming video, and more.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Best Ring Cyber Monday deals: Doorbells, security cameras, and bundles
Digital Trends Best Black Friday Ring Doorbell Deals

One of the most popular home security devices is the Ring Doorbell. It's super easy to install, and it keeps track of everyone that walks up to your door, day or night. They're not super expensive year-round, but right now they're even cheaper during Cyber Monday deals. We've singled out some of our favorite offers below from a wide variety of retailers.

Check out Nest Cyber Monday deals and Nest Thermostat Cyber Monday deals for similar discounts.
Best Ring Doorbell Cyber Monday deals

Read more
77 best Amazon Cyber Monday deals on laptops, TVs, and more
Digital Trends Best Black Friday Amazon Deals

You can make a strong case that Amazon won Black Friday. Now that we've moved on to Cyber Monday, Amazon is still looking strong. We've collected the best Cyber Monday deals on a wide variety of products. If you're interested in grabbing some new tech today, like an OLED TV, some smart home devices, or just a new coffee maker, check out the awesome deals below.

Best Amazon Cyber Monday TV deals

Read more
Best Cyber Monday power tool deals: DeWalt, Milwaukee, and more
A DeWalt drill being used.

A basic set of power tools is a necessity for every household, because you never know when you'll need any of them. If you don't have one yet, or if you want to upgrade from a rusty set, you should take a look at the ongoing Cyber Monday deals for bargains. To help you out, we've rounded up our favorite deals below.

One thing to note is that many of the tools below require rechargeable batteries to join. But getting rechargeable AA and AAA batteries won't help you here, instead we're looking at (typically) 20V batteries made by each brand for their tools. And that's why we're looking at these power tools on a brand by brand basis, because the more batteries you collect the more convenient the brand's tools become. In much the same way that iPhone users benefit from the synergy of more Apple devices, you will benefit from more tools from a given brand.
Best DeWalt Cyber Monday power tool deals

Read more