Amazon Brings Alexa to Regular TVs via A Smart Set-Top Box

The voice-enabled set-top box will work with any kind of TV. 

3 min read
The box is currently used by providers like Airtel and Dish TV. 

Amazon is going all out to popularise its voice assistant Alexa in India. To make this happen, it is already selling the Echo range of speakers and a slew of headphones that support the feature.

But in a country like India, it didn’t seem likely to tap the mass market, which is why its recent product launch is intriguing. Technically, Amazon has joined hands with an India-based company called MyBox Technology that specialises in making and selling set-top boxes in the country.

With this, Amazon is launching a new form of the device that gets built-in support for Alexa, enabling regular televisions to be operated via voice. This device, priced at Rs 1,999, comes bundled with a voice-enabled remote and an accessory to connect to a Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth receiver.

India is a prominent market for set-top boxes (STBs) that run with standard CTV, LCD or LED televisions. The MyBox device is looking to convert a regular user into using his/her voice to control the TV.

MyBox caters to direct-to-home (DTH) providers like Airtel, Hathway, Dish TV and In Digital among others.

It’s interesting to see that at a time when the demand for smart TVs is gradually increasing, Amazon jumps in and tells people that, instead of upgrading the TV, upgrade your set-top box and make your existing TV smarter.

There will be push-to-talk access to Alexa from the mic button on the TV set-top box remote. This will allow customers to use voice as an intuitive and preferred mode of interaction with their STB to check weather, get latest news, recipes or listen to their favourite music tracks.
Amazon Voice Services, Amazon India

Now, some of you might be asking why is Amazon killing the chances of people buying its Fire TV stick? Instead, Amazon sees this as a way to push Alexa’s reach. With brands like Airtel, Dish TV and Hathway already under its wings, MyBox claims that existing systems will also be upgraded.

Regular set-top boxes now get voice control. 
Regular set-top boxes now get voice control. 
(Photo: The Quint)
MyBox is in the process of upgrading its existing middleware, over the air, in 2.5 lakh set-top-boxes with its in-house developed middleware MyConnect. This new middleware along with Alexa Kit is capable of enabling Alexa Voice services to existing homes.
Amazon India

The device can also be bought via local cable operators in your area for the same price.

In addition to this device, Amazon has partnered with brands like iBall and Boats, to come up with headphones and speakers with built-in support for Alexa.

While most of the products need to be paired with a smartphone to make use of the voice assistant, Amazon sees a future where the headphone could work standalone, and we’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months.

Press Alexa button to activate the voice control via remote. 
Press Alexa button to activate the voice control via remote. 
(Photo: The Quint)

The remote comes with the Alexa button which gives it the voice-support functionality.

Smart TVs are becoming increasingly affordable in the country, with a host of brands selling big screen 4K TVs for as low as Rs 35,000. Many expected this to mark the end of traditional set-top box & TV combos, but it is likely we’re going to see them become smarter. Dish TV has already announced an Alexa-supported STB that will be available soon.

This accessory to connect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth receiver comes bundled with the STB.
This accessory to connect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth receiver comes bundled with the STB.
(Photo: The Quint)

Then you have Tata Sky and Airtel, moving to come up with products that’ll natively support internet and streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. This is similar to how Reliance Jio reinvented the stagnating feature phone segment with products like the JioPhone 4G that supports apps like Hotstar and even WhatsApp.

Reliance JioPhone has made strong inroads into the Indian mobile market. 
Reliance JioPhone has made strong inroads into the Indian mobile market. 
(Photo: The Quint)

In a market with a potential 1 billion plus consumers, Amazon realises that for Alexa and its ecosystem to prosper, the net to expand the user base will have to be cast wider.

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