Amazon has updated its Fire TV Cube to handle video calls on the big screen for the first time. Fire TV Cube was already the most capable device in the Fire TV range, with AI helper Alexa built-in, this set-top box is capable of switching between HDMI inputs, controlling the volume and changing channels with a quick voice command. And now, Amazon has expanded its capabilities.
Using the Fire TV Cube, viewers will be able to make their video call on the telly. That should save you from the arm-ache of holding out a tablet or smartphone for the duration of your catch-up with school friends, colleagues who are stranded working from home, and distant family members. It also means you’ll be able to keep your hands free to make notes during the next remote family pub quiz (handy when trying to sneakily pass notes to team mates).
Of course, if you want the people on the other end of your call to be able to see you, you’ll need to hook-up a webcam to the Fire TV Cube.
This will require a bit of fiddling behind the TV cabinet as the Amazon Fire TV Cube doesn’t have a full-size USB port on the back, so the webcam that you’re using with your desktop PC won’t plug in directly. Instead, you’ll need to buy an adapter from USB to Micro USB. If you were already using an adapter in the Micro USB port to plug an ethernet into the back of the Fire TV Cube, you’ll need to have a rethink and, mostly likely, buy a new adapter that supports both USB and Ethernet ports.
Once all that is out of the way, you should be able to broadcast from the comfort of your sofa and watch all of the action on the big screen.
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This is the first time that Amazon has added video call support with any of its Fire TV range. Until now, the Alexa-enabled streaming gadget has only been able to make and receive audio calls from those using the Alexa app on their smartphone, an Amazon Fire tablet, or an Echo smart speaker.
It brings the Fire TV Cube into direct competition with the Facebook Portal, which adds a webcam to your TV to make and receive Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp audio and video calls on the big screen – a gadget that seemed like an unnecessary luxury last year, but has become a must-have accessory over the last 12 months.
Webcam support for the Fire TV Cube will arrive in the coming weeks to viewers in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States.
Webcams must support the following minimum requirements UVC support, 720p resolution, 30 frames per sec (fps) to work with the Fire TV Cube, but Amazon recommends, for an optimal communications experience, that you use a camera with 1080p resolution and 60-90 degree field of view (FOV).
Elsewhere, as part of the same software update to the Fire TV Cube, viewers will now be able to ask Alexa on Fire TV devices about the weather or for general information without interrupting the TV viewing or browsing experience. Responses appear in a small pop-up that overlays the top right-hand corner of the video you’re watching.
To get started, simply ask, “Alexa, what is the weather?” or “Alexa, how far away is planet Mars?” This feature will be available on all Fire TV devices, not just the Fire TV Cube.