Amazon today unveiled its Fire TV streaming video device. During the announcement event in Manhattan, company vice president Peter Larsen called the $99 set top box “tiny, incredibly powerful and unbelievably simple.” For users, that power and simplicity are designed to be evident in features such as the device's ability to project and preload the content users will want to see and to navigate via voice search.
A statement by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos reads that, “Our exclusive new ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly.” Movies or tv shows are buffered for playback before users hit the play button, the company says; those choices are made by analyzing users’ watch lists and recommendations. As users’ viewing habits change, the caching prediction algorithm will adjust accordingly, and personalization capabilities should get better over time as buyers use the Fire TV device.
Addressing video streaming performance bottlenecks is a big theme of the announcement, which also touts the device’s quad-core processor and a dedicated Adreno 320 graphics engine that processes 57 billion floating point instructions per second.
When it comes to voice search, Bezos' statement makes the point that on Fire TV, it “actually works [,which] means no more typing on an alphabet grid.” Users say the name of the movie, TV show, actor, director, or genre of interest into the remote, and they’re off, according to Amazon.
The voice search capability is a marriage of Amazon’s own search data and expertise and the IMDb database, optimized to understand Amazon’s video, app, and game catalog, Amazon says. The first-wave of providers to bring their games to the platform include EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega. Amazon Game Studios also has built a new game, SevZero, exclusively for the platform.
Movie and TV content options include Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, Netflix, and Hulu Plus, while Pandora, Amazon MP3,iHeartRadio provide the tunes. Music discovery service VEVO offers up music videos. X-Ray for movies and TV shows provides information about cast and crew, character backgrounds, trivia items that relate to what is happening at that point on screen, and with the X-Ray for Music feature due next month, users can sing along to synchronized lyrics.
Also on tap is a Fling feature that turns a user’s TV into the primary screen for watching movies or tv while they rely on their phones or tablets to handle playback controls, a customized display for X-Ray, or browse the web. It’s available first on the Kindle Fire HDX.