Amazon Fire TV: Trying – and failing – to outsmart the voice-activated box

At first it felt strange, barking commands into a TV remote, especially when it bested me at every turn

When you know what you’re looking for, voice search on the Fire TV makes for an invitingly speedy option
When you know what you’re looking for, voice search on the Fire TV makes for an invitingly speedy option

The first time I tried the voice-activated search feature on the Amazon Fire TV, my instinct was to try and outsmart it. Holding down the microphone button at the top of the remote, I dredged up a terrible Scottish accent that my Dundee-born mum would have been appalled at. “Game of Thrones,” I growled.

Ding! My options arrived – and there it was, top of the list. Game of Thrones. Damn. You win this round, Skynet.

At first it felt strange, barking commands into a TV remote. Stranger still was the fact that it outsmarted me at every turn. I tried mumbling. I tried whispering. I even tried a Christopher Walken impression. Every time, it brought up exactly what I’d asked for.

Voice search is a big selling point of Amazon’s most recent incarnation of the Fire TV – a neat little black box that connects to your wi-fi network and allows you to stream films, TV shows, music, and play games through your telly.

Fire TV: The techy bits

What’s in the box

  • Fire TV box
  • Power cable
  • Fire TV Voice Remote
  • AAA batteries

What you’ll need

  • A strong internet connection – especially for 4K streaming. Fire TV has in-built wifi, or an Ethernet port for wired connections.
  • HDMI cable to connect to your TV – it isn’t provided in the box.

Set-up

  • Plug and play. Connect to your internet, install the updates, and off you go.

Cost

  • £79.99, Amazon.co.uk

In fact, it seems to be a major selling point of a lot of new TV technologies – back in September, Apple claimed to have created “the future of television” with their latest version of the Apple TV, which also prominently features voice searching.

When you know what you’re looking for, voice search on the Fire TV makes for an invitingly speedy option – especially given how unintuitive streaming service interfaces tend to be. There’s a reason that people joke about mindlessly browsing Netflix’s array of titles before realising you’ve spent your entire one-hour TV viewing window without watching much. The remarkably fast Fire TV brought up my options in a flash, and didn’t hesitate when I garbled my words. In fact, it only got confused once – upon looking for some Kanye West in the music section. I was repeatedly confronted with something called Conny West. But when it worked, it felt like the future.

While voice search technology is undeniably impressive, its application on the Fire TV has yet to be refined. Understandably, the box is tied in to Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service, and its own digital rental and purchasing options – meaning that when I tried to search “Battlestar Galactica Netflix” (which, to its credit, wasn’t interpreted as a cry for help), it got confused. The voice search also doesn’t work within the Netflix app full-stop. If Amazon can work out these niggles, it will be a phenomenal bit of kit.

Still, if you’re an Amazon household with a Prime membership and a Fire tablet, the new Fire TV should slot neatly in with your fellow gadgets. And judging by how well it dealt with my array of dodgy accents, it should be able to understand you, no matter where you’re from.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in