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Amazon’s New Fire TV Features and the UX Future of Generative AI

Amazon's New Fire TV Features and the UX Future of Generative AI

The News: Amazon announced a range of updates to its popular Fire TV family, introducing enhanced conversational voice search with generative AI, upgrades to the Fire TV Ambient Experience, and the most powerful Fire TV Sticks yet—the all-new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, now with the Fire TV Ambient Experience, and Fire TV Stick 4K. In addition, Amazon announced the all-new Fire TV Soundbar, enabling customers to enjoy their favorite TV shows, movies, and games with room-filling sound. Read the Press Release announcing Amazon’s newest Fire TV features on the Amazon website.

Amazon’s New Fire TV Features and the UX Future of Generative AI

Analyst Take: In response to the Amazon announced enhancements to its Fire TV product family, which include enhanced conversational voice search with generative AI, upgrades to the Fire TV Ambient Experience, and a new Fire TV Soundbar, Tapas Roy, vice president of Fire TV, highlighted generative AI as a central theme in the product line’s latest evolution: “With a world of content at your fingertips, sometimes the hardest thing to do is decide what to watch. Fire TV has always been great at search, but generative AI takes it to a whole new level.”

What Roy is speaking about reflects a broad AI-centric trend across Amazon’s device ecosystem. Here though, he is speaking to how a new large language model (LLM) is being used to create a more natural and conversational way for Fire TV users to search for or discover content using natural dialogue. A user can ask Alexa open-ended questions about just about anything (genres, actors, plot, dialog, scenes, etc.) and by combining generative AI with its extensive entertainment content and app library, Fire TV should be able to make extremely targeted recommendations.

Further enhancing the increasingly intuitive Fire TV experience, a new Continue Watching row will soon incorporate more content from major streaming entertainment providers, including Freevee, Disney+, Hulu, Max, MGM+, Peacock, STARZ, and Tubi, with more on the way. The new row is designed to make it easier for customers to find and stream their favorite content by positioning recently watched content in the center of the screen and prioritizing recency.

The New Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Fire TV Ambient Experience, Speed, Wi-Fi 6E, and 2x More Storage

The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max features an upgraded 2.0 GHz quad-core processor and support for Wi-Fi 6E to lower latency, offer faster speeds, and allow less interference from other devices, and it is the first streaming media player to come with the Fire TV Ambient Experience. As its name suggests, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max enables 4K Ultra HD as well as Dolby Vision, HDR, HDR10+ and immersive Dolby Atmos audio. It also provides 16 GB of storage, which is 2x the previous generation’s capacity, allowing users to store more apps and games directly on the device.

The Fire TV Ambient Experience, previously only available on the Fire TV Omni QLED Series, is now also available on the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Users can easily activate the Ambient Experience from their Shortcuts menu with a tap or a voice command to turn their blank TV screens into smart displays featuring relevant information such as calendar items and reminders, allow users to control smart devices, play audio content, or display their favorite photos or artwork. Amazon keeps adding new images to its growing collection of more than 2,000 free, gallery-quality pieces of artwork, and recently added more work from artists from France, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Australia, drawing from museums and galleries such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Museo del Prado in Madrid, and Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Florence.

One of Fire TV Ambient Experience’s more interesting generative AI-enabled features allows users to create artwork using just their voice. Using simple prompts such as “Alexa, create an image of dachshunds scampering through a dandelion field,” users will be able to create unique custom displays for their TV screens. The feature, called AI Art, is free and will be available later this year. Next year, customers will also be able to transform their personal photos into popular art styles like sepia tone, watercolor painting, impressionism, and others.

The New Fire TV Stick 4K and Soundbar: Enhancing the Fire TV Experience Without Breaking the Bank

Amazon's New Fire TV Features and the UX Future of Generative AI
Image Source: Amazon

The new Fire TV Stick 4K is basically the $50 version of the 4K Max: It features an updated 1.7 GHZ quad-core processor, introduces support for Wi-Fi 6, delivers 4K Ultra HD picture quality and immersive Dolby Atmos audio, and supports Dolby Vision, HDR, HLG, and HDR10+. Using Alexa Home Theater, users can also wirelessly connect compatible Echo devices to push audio to and from multiple speakers and inputs.

Amazon also introduced a new compact 24-inch Fire TV soundbar – a two-channel companion device that, like the new Echo Show 8, delivers room-filling sound and support for DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Audio. The sound bar is compatible with all Fire TV devices and easily connects to phones, tablets, or any streaming device via Bluetooth.

Sustainability Considerations

The all-new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Soundbar all passed the Carbon Trust’s Reducing CO2 certifications and carry its Climate Pledge Friendly badge. All devices include a low power mode, which conserves energy when a device goes to sleep or enters standby mode. In addition, the new Fire TV sticks’ carbon footprints have been reduced year over year partly through the use of more sustainable materials and 100% recyclable materials (in the US) made of wood-fiber-based materials from responsibly managed forests or recycled sources in their packaging. Additionally, product detail pages for each of these devices feature product sustainability fact sheets with information about device life cycle carbon emissions and sustainability impact.

Amazon’s Expanding AI Integration Across Its Device Ecosystem

Timing is everything, as the saying goes, and Amazon’s timing with regard to its latest device ecosystem AI integration aims to ride the steady current of consumer interest in smarter assistant-like features, growing demand for budget-friendly smart devices (presumably to eliminate barriers of adoption for the category, which has not scaled as fast as some might have hoped), and the need for Amazon to assert itself in an increasingly fragmented smart-device market without trying to be all things to all people. As an early leader in the smart, connected device category, and building on the success of Alexa experiences, it makes sense to see enhanced AI features, incorporating LLMs and generative AI capabilities, as Amazon transitions Alexa-enabled devices to their natural next tier of capabilities. Still though, I worry that Amazon is not moving quite fast enough with its intuitive AI upgrades.

I argued in this post’s companion piece about updates to Amazon’s Echo line of products that a piecemeal approach to new AI-powered features, especially those involving always-on sensors, facial recognition, and natural language processing, because of the privacy concerns they are likely to evoke in a significant segment of the consumer market, makes sense: Start slow, let users acclimate themselves to these new capabilities, prove yourself worthy of their trust over time, and build on that model. But when it comes to the Fire line of products, I feel that a different strategy is in order, and Amazon should not be shy about experimenting with novel use cases for sensors, natural language processing, and AI-powered innovation designed to not only reduce user friction with their devices but also create truly remarkable and differentiated experiences.

Not to minimize improvements to Fire TV’s AI-powered voice search and enhancements to its Continue Watching feature, but I cannot help but be a bit disappointed that there is not more to this year’s announcements. Sure, AI Art looks nice, but it feels like a set of features we have already seen. Customizable screens, no matter how slick, are not exactly a novel concept. AI, and particularly generative AI, has already opened the door to exciting possibilities and use cases across pretty much every industry segment, and yet, with its Fire product ecosystem, Amazon seems focused on just marginally improving core features rather than on creating exciting new experiences and features for users. I expect that will change over time, and hope that we will be having a very different conversation a year from now. If Amazon really wants to make its Fire products exciting and position them as market leadership material, the product team needs to start thinking about how to leverage AI and generative AI, both on-device and in the cloud, to bring more unique value and utility to its devices.

Off the top of my head, I would like to see more Alexa-enabled customizable audio controls with both user-specific and theme-specific settings that can be saved for on-demand access, for example. Additionally, equipping Fire TVs with additional frictionless security, access, and control features would be a nice touch, especially if those capabilities can focus on empowering users with disabilities. This area is absolutely one where Amazon could differentiate itself from its competition. But the real secret sauce for Amazon will lie in unlocking entirely new types of experiences that consumers and OEMs haven’t yet thought of. Yes, proactive innovation of that type is hard, but it is ultimately what creates inflection points for both markets and the companies that lead the way. Given the amazing capabilities unlocked by generative AI, Amazon should be looking to punch past its UX innovation comfort zone and bring new UX ideas to the segment … before someone else does.

In the meantime, new generative AI-powered voice search features, Continue Watching, and AI Art features will be available in the US later this year. The ability for users to transform their personal photos into popular art styles such as sepia tone, watercolor painting, impressionism, and others will be available next year.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

AI-Enabled Features in Amazon Echo Products Point to the Future of UX

Amazon Fire TV: Battling for Center of Gravity in the Home

Amazon Trade-In Program: Adding to The Circular Economy

Image Credit: Amazon

Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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