3 January 2021
If you’ve been following my posts you know what a fan I am of Amazon Alexa and her integration with smart home technology. I was excited to read over the Holiday that Amazon has added several Alexa-powered features to the second-generation Fire TV Cube, Perhaps the most impressive and timely is two-way video calls. Perhaps late to the game as well, especially in these times of social distancing and the Holidays. But “Necessity is the Mother Invention” as they say so better late than never. As we continue to isolate ourselves from loved ones and work from home, two-way calling on a bigger scale than FaceTime is a welcome addition to our new normal.
You’re now able to place and receive hands-free video calls with other Alexa-powered devices with a screen, such as a Fire TV powered TV, an Echo Show, phone or tablet with the Alexa app. Once you’ve imported your contacts, you can ask Alexa to call someone else’s device. You’ll be able to use commands like “Alexa, video on” or ask Alexa to end the call.
I’m really liking the Fire TV Cube and TV platform for video calling though. From a personal perspective it seems like a more comfortable way of video calling. Plus it allows you more opportunity to really bring someone into your home.
Before getting started with your Fire TV Cube and TV, you’ll need some additional hardware to make video calls — a USB webcam with at least 720p resolution and a micro USB to USB adapter. For a better experience, Amazon recommends webcams with 1080p resolution and 60–90 degree field of view from 6–10 feet away from the TV. Webcams that are 4K and distances greater than 12 feet are not recommended.
The adapter is required to connect the Fire TV Cube and webcam. The Ethernet adapter that comes with your Fire TV Cube will not work for this setup. Once connected, a notification should be visible on the the TV screen, confirming the camera can now be used for video.
The next step is to use the Alexa app (iOS and Android/Google Play) to turn on messaging and calling. To do this, locate the Fire TV Cube under the Devices tab and then enable Communications. From there you can also enable Drop In for the Fire TV Cube if you’d like. The app can also be used to import contacts to make it easier and quicker to start a video call with friends and family. The import contacts option can be found under the Communication tab. Once there, locate and tap on the person’s icon in the upper-right corner followed by the three-dot menu and then select import contacts.
Once everything is connected and enabled, you’ll be able to place calls on the Fire TV cube hands-free by saying “Alexa, call [NAME].” If a call comes in on your Fire TV, just say “Alexa, answer” to pick it up. All calls begin with video off by default so you’ll need to say “Alexa, video on” to enable your camera feed. You can also do this with your remote. To adjust the volume, say “Alexa, volume up/down.”
I have both first- and second-generation Fire TV Cubes and for now there’s no word yet if the 1st-gen Fire TV Cube will gain this functionality in the future. So I’ll be keeping an ear to ground for that news but not holding my breath at this point. It doesn’t seem like video calling will be coming to other Fire TV models, like the Fire TV Stick.
So now you have no excuse for holding up a phone for 30 minutes, or cramming everyone in to see who’s on screen. With video calling on Fire TV Cube, you don’t even have to leave the couch to catch up with friends and family. And now that you can relax and connect hands-free, get creative and make the most of your video calls with loved ones like playing charades with family or celebrate a special birthday
Another long overdue feature Amazon has added to the Fire TV Cube is notifications when someone rings your doorbell. You’ll have the option to display a video feed from a connected Ring device on your TV by asking Alexa to do so.
Additionally, you’ll be able to ask Alexa general queries, such as weather information, without interrupting whatever you’re watching. Alexa will answer you in a pop-up window if you’re playing video in full screen or on the background of the device’s browse screen. This will work on all Fire TV devices except for the first-generation Fire TV Stick and Fire TV.
As you can see the Fire TV Cube ecosystem and capabilities are growing. I’m particularly excited about this as Debbie and I work through our home design and the smart home tech that we’ll deploy. I hope this and our other posts are helpful in your smart home journey’s. Let us know what you think, if you have questions or suggest smart home topics of interest if I haven’t covered something that pique’s your interest.
In the meantime, Debbie and I have been hard at work on our floor plan since Thanksgiving. We submitted what we’d consider a fairly advanced edit today for our architect to review this week. I’ll let you know how that plays out as we’re anxious to to get it completed so we can move on to our elevation work — what the house will actually look like from the outside.
Debbie and I hope you all had a great Holiday season and wish the best as well for 2021. Stay positive and test negative …