Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Interview: Amazon’s Plans to Bring Generative AI to Fire TV, Partnerships in India, and More

Amazon’s Fire TV has evolved from being yet another media streaming player to a powerful platform that’s ready to harness the power of AI. Early Fire TV devices allowed consumers easy access to all major online streaming platforms. In 2023, Amazon offers a wide range of Fire TV devices across different price points, a dedicated app store, Amazon-built TVs, and a lot more. The online retail giant is now ready to add generative AI to its Fire TV.

At a media briefing, Amazon offered an early preview of how generative AI can be used on Fire TV models. The company showed off how generative artwork can be created within seconds on a Fire TV Omni series model. You can simply use a voice command on the remote control to create artwork in seconds. The feature can be useful if you want the TV to serve as wall art when it’s not being used for viewing content. The feature is expected to ship to select Fire TV Omni series models later this year.

Daniel Rauschs picture square daniel

Daniel Rausch
Photo Credit: Amazon

 

Gadgets 360 spoke to Daniel Rausch, Vice President, Entertainment Devices and Services, Amazon, to understand how the company plans to bring AI features to its Fire TV devices and Fire OS-based TV models, its plans for India, and more.

Note: Some responses have been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.

Gadgets 360: Do you think the Fire TV can become a central hub for the smart home?

Daniel Rausch: I think it certainly can, and I think for a growing number of customers it already is. I think the TV is already one of the essential hubs of the home when we want to be entertained. I think it could act as much more of a hub of the home outside of the moments when we’re being entertained. The backbone of our smart home integrations is Alexa, which is deeply integrated with every Fire TV product.

With a single tap, you can bring up your smart home dashboard, you can ask through voice commands, and bring up the status of every smart home device in the house. So there’s a lot of smart home capability already there. For example in the case of a Ring doorbell, when it rings the movie pauses slowly, and you get a view of who’s at the door.

Gadgets 360: Is there a plan to bundle these smart home devices in a single package?

Daniel Rausch: We do bundle products sometimes but every customer is different so the default approach for us is that make sure every customer can buy the products they want specifically. But we also bundle them from time to time.

We do offer unique bundles, for example, a Fire TV and an Echo Dot. We do these as promotional bundles so you may not see them as ongoing offerings, but you might want to keep your eyes peeled this Diwali, maybe there will be some unique offers and bundles.

Gadgets 360: How are Fire TV and FireOS-based devices doing in India?

Daniel Rausch: Very well! We just launched with Xiaomi, a whole lineup of televisions. We sold out way way faster than anyone would have expected, I don’t think you can get one now. You’d have to order it for delivery in several weeks because we’re still not back in stock.

When I was there, we were in discussions about getting back in stock as fast as possible because customers really want them, and they’re loving the experience. No specific news to announce today but I can tell you that once we see success like that with a partner, we only want to do more. We’re keenly interested in doing more and more with Xiaomi.

Gadgets 360: How’s the engagement on these entertainment devices in markets like India? Has it gone up or down after the pandemic?

Daniel Rausch: It’s really interesting what we saw with the pandemic. I think different people had different ideas about what we might see after, during the pandemic it definitely moved the curve up. People wanted to be entertained, frankly, people needed some extra time to take the stress off. There was so much stress in the air that you wanted to be entertained, you wanted to relax.

There were different theories on what we would see after the pandemic, we’ve seen no return to prior. None of our metrics show a return to where we were, it really just accelerated the curve a few years forward. It pulled whatever you would have seen in 2025 to 2023 so there’s no looking back. The macro trend of ‘streaming is a primary source of content’ is here to stay.

Gadgets 360: Based on the feedback you receive for Fire TV products globally, what do you think your customers love the most and what do they dislike the most?

Daniel Rausch: Let’s answer the first part first. Definitely first and foremost, customers love the simplicity and the intuitive nature of Fire TV content. They don’t have to think about where some show is. If I’m in some app, and if I find a piece of content that tells me to rent it, do I own it somewhere else, have I already bought it, all of that goes away with Fire TV.

You search for something with the simplicity of voice, you find it’s available on this subscription you already have because we put that up on the top. You have all the choices in the world right there. With one tap, you’re into the movie you want and you’re enjoying yourself. Of course, we have a Fire TV model for every type of customer.

Are there things we have to work on that we’re we’re not perfect yet? Sure, we’re always looking at our metrics for success. We’re rapidly expanding our selection of live TV services, and things like that. A part of our job is to show up every day and be our own worst critics. There are areas we can improve for sure, but I don’t think there’s any dissatisfier that stands up.

Gadgets 360: Do you have any plans to expand the Fire TV lineup besides Amazon-built TVs?

Daniel Rausch: Jeff Bezos has a phrase, ‘customers are divinely discontent’, because whatever really satisfied them this year, next year you’ll have to make a new standard for it. That’s an inspiring way to think about customers. Our job is to come to work every day and invent, and live in the future for our customers so that we can bring them the best products we can. I’m humbled that that’s what I get to do every day.

There’s nothing specific to say about our inventions, but I can tell you that at the core of Fire TV will continue to be those user experiences I talked about. Yes, we will keep inventing, there will be more things to share with you later. I think the big theme I would highlight is the foundational principles of what Fire TV already is, and resetting what customers can expect. We really want to reinvent TV, it’s a space that hasn’t evolved too fast for customers.

Gadgets 360: Do you have any plans to bring one of your Fire TV Omni QLED TVs or services like Luna to India?

Daniel Rausch: Stay tuned! We have a global customer base, and we take that very seriously. We want to build great products and services for every customer. We do have to make sure the products really work well at the foundations.

Luna is a great example, it was generally available for just a year when we were able to add a set of countries, one of which is not India at this stage. We’re very focused on our products in India, I think those Redmi TVs are a very recent example. We’re partnering with the biggest and best partners that there are for the Indian consumer electronics market, so stay tuned for more.

Gadgets 360: You showed an example of generative AI to create artwork on Fire TV, but is there anything apart from that you’re working on bringing AI to Fire TV?

Daniel Rausch: The full feature set of Alexa is already available on Fire TV. Alexa is founded on being the best personal assistant, and has deep capabilities based on AI.

You saw the demo, I would call it a sneak peek, of the generative art features that are coming to customers later this year on the Omni QLED TVs. I would say that customers interact with AI all the time with Fire TV already today, it’s the founding technology of all of our recommendations, the ‘For You’ row, the entire user experience of the content display, the Alexa-powered search, and figuring out what content you’re looking for when you’re using voice/Alexa so there’s already a lot of AI built-in, and there’s definitely more to come. This is the golden age of AI and times are evolving quickly, capabilities are advancing quickly, and we’re very focussed on harnessing those capabilities as well.

Gadgets 360: You showed an example of how you can just generate artwork in seconds, do you think there can be a world where someone can just ask Alexa to come up with content for consumers?

Daniel Rausch: Yes, I think it’s going to be possible. So stay tuned!

Gadgets 360: What are the big plans for Fire TV in 2023 and beyond?

Daniel Rausch: I think you’ll see more of innovation on top of the foundations of Fire TV. Omni QLED comes from the same foundation as our $29 Fire TV Stick, it’s one of those core principles you’ll see us continue to invent there. You’ll see more television selections, we’re moving very quickly with our global partners. You’ll continue to see TVs continue to be the fastest growing part of the Fire TV business, and then we’ll of course add media streaming products. So stay tuned for the latest there, I think those are the bedrock of the Fire TV business.

Gadgets 360: You’re already manufacturing Fire TV models in India, do you plan to make Amazon-built TVs in the country sometime in the future?

Daniel Rausch: Our goal with Amazon-built TVs is to drive innovation as fast as possible, and make sure there’s a great selection of TVs out there for customers. No one TV manufacturer has every specification, the landscape of TVs is so big it’s definitely not our aspiration to fill that whole thing with our Amazon-built TVs. We do really want to find a full ray of partners that can make any particular set of specifications, set of customers, and region successful. There’s a lot for us to consider as we plot the roadmap.

Our real goal is for any consumer, anywhere — whatever set of TV specifications they’re looking for (picture, quality, size, brightness, others), we want them to have a Fire TV option with all those different components. That’s really the strategy overall, and we love the idea of delivering that full picture with partners.

Disclosure: Amazon sponsored the correspondent’s flights and accommodation for the event in Seattle, US.

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