Now you can use Echo speakers for your home theater audio with connected devices
Amazon is today beginning to roll out new features and functionality to its lineup of Fire TV streaming devices and the recently released Fire TV Omni and 4-Series televisions. At the top of the pile of new tricks is a Smart Home Dashboard that looks similar to what’s already available on the company’s Fire tablets and Echo Show smart displays.
The dashboard, available in the US and Canada, offers quick access and on / off toggles for connected lights, plugs, and switches that are linked to your Alexa system. Smart cameras get their own row in the dashboard, complete with a thumbnail of their perspective though not a live view until you actually click into them. Previously, you could control your smart home gadgets with voice commands through the Fire TV’s Alexa Voice Remote, but it’s always nice to have an actual interface on the screen for this stuff. Samsung offers a TV dashboard for its SmartThings platform, and the Apple TV has a semblance of one via Control Center. Amazon says additional features like smart home groups and smart thermostats will be added to the dashboard next year.
On the subject of Alexa, Amazon’s also adding what it’s calling an Alexa Shortcut Panel that appears on-screen when you press the remote’s Alexa button. This will get you to “smart home controls, weather, news, and your video library.” The company says this feature will be “broadly” rolled out across Fire TV hardware in the United States.
Amazon is also beefing up the audio side of its Fire TV experience. The company is expanding the ability to use Echo speakers (like the Echo Studio if you’re feeling fancy) as speakers and bringing that feature to the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Fire TV Omni / 4-Series.
On the TVs, Alexa Home Theater supports audio both from streaming apps and connected devices, but Amazon says the same even holds true for the Stick 4K Max so long as it’s plugged into the eARC port on your TV. Sound from other inputs like a game console will be routed through the Alexa Home Theater setup. That’s a first and something the other Fire TV streamers aren’t capable of:
With Fire TV Omni Series and 4-Series televisions, audio will output when streaming on Fire TV and across any compatible device that’s connected, including cable boxes, gaming consoles, and antenna sources. Fire TV Stick 4K Max can now do the same, so long as it’s plugged into your TV’s HDMI eARC port, which means you can broadcast audio to Echo speakers, even when you’re enjoying content on inputs other than Fire TV.
After promising to support Apple’s AirPlay 2 on its Fire TV Omni and 4-Series TVs, that feature is also set to roll out soon — though AirPlay integration is sadly still nowhere to be found on standalone Fire TV streaming devices. And last, Amazon again confirms that Zoom is on its way to the Omni TVs.
Owners of the first self-branded Amazon TVs will be able to plug a camera into the USB port for videoconferencing. In the coming weeks, you will be able to place and receive Zoom meetings from the biggest screen in your home. After downloading the Zoom app through Fire TV, simply plug a compatible 720p 1080p webcam into the USB port and say, “Alexa, find Zoom” to get set up.
Fire TV owners can expect all of these new features to arrive in the “coming weeks,” according to Amazon.