Amazon, the company that produces the smart speaker product Echo, has been making it easier for hardware and software developers to integrate this technology in their products. With Alexa Voice Services, you can leverage the same Echo technology to create a great user experience. To that end, one developer has created an app called Alexa Listens, which is a pretty simple app to access Alexa Voice Services. There’s one interesting thing about this app: it supports Android TV.
As shown in the video above, Alexa has some limitations. It has some difficulty remembering the context of a conversation, leaving some statements to be misunderstood even though they were sequential. However, it does a pretty good job of remembering answering specific queries and the various easter eggs are enjoyable.
The app itself integrates reasonably enough on Android TV. The layout extends to fill the full screen, with a random attractive background photo (which doesn’t make it into the video for some reason).
To make launching easy, the app produces a recommendation that appears at the front of the recommendations row so you can quickly return to the app.
One thing that was hit or miss was the end of query detection. Sometimes I could say something and the controller would detect when I finished speaking. Other times, I had to manually press the “A” button again to confirm my voice input was finished. I’m not sure if this was a bug with Google’s voice input API or specifically with the app. It wasn’t too annoying, but it was definitely inconsistent.
If you have the Amazon Echo app installed, it could communicate with Amazon to see search results for some queries and add skills that third-party developers made to make it do more. Still, without it, I was able to add items to my Amazon shopping cart just by speaking. These items weren’t specific, but it would let me do a more refined search later on my phone. (But alas, my search for “plutonium” came up empty.)
It’s hard to say how Google Assistant will integrate with Android TV, as there has not been much news about it, but in the meantime this may be a useful app to check out if you’re looking for more home automation.
The app is free to download on Google Play.