TiVo Alexa Voice Control Arrives*

Dave Zatz —  May 14, 2018 — 30 Comments

As foreshadowed by yours truly and then announced at CES, Alexa has finally come to TiVo retail boxes. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, a placeholder app appeared – announcing the imminent arrival of Amazon’s voice assistant. Although TiVo has introduced their own native voice remote, it requires an additional purchase, vs those who already own Alexa gear, and is limited to units running the less desirable TiVo Experience 4 (Hydra) on a subset of TiVo hardware. By comparison, Alexa will be made available to a broad swath of devices, dating all the way back to the Premiere and running either Hydra or the HDUI Encore interface.

The TiVo Alexa skill isn’t live yet, but we know it’ll utilize Amazon’s beefed up media api. And, based on some of the documented commands that’ll be available to us, the delay will have been well worth the wait:

  • “Alexa, pause”
  • “Alexa, fast forward.” To fast forward at higher speeds, say “Alexa fast forward again.”
  • “Alexa, previous” is like pressing the Instant Replay button (jumps back 8 seconds).
  • “Alexa, skip” or “Alexa, next” will skip a commercial break on SkipMode-enabled shows.
  • “Alexa, change the channel to <channel number>.”
  • “Alexa, watch <channel name>” (e.g., CBS or ESPN). You must set up your Zip code in the Alexa app to enable this command. (Go to Settings, choose your device, then verify the Zip code under ‘Device Location.’)
  • “Alexa, go to Guide.”
  • “Alexa, go to Home” opens the TiVo Home screen.
  • “Alexa, launch <app name>.” Available apps include Prime Video, Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu, YouTube, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Vudu, MLB.TV, Plex, and more.

30 responses to TiVo Alexa Voice Control Arrives*

  1. I’ve been looking forward to this feature for quite some time. I’m glad it will be available without an additional purchase.

  2. Michael Burstin May 14, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I got the app notification – I didn’t notice it until someone posted on the Tivo IFTTT Facebook group about it. I am assuming that this will be a much faster interface being a native Alexa skill than the IFTTT integration that now exists – mostly because you need to go though a not real-time service for IFTTT – so usually something like Skip works within seconds, but 5% of the time its >1 minute delay.

  3. It would be nice if it could put the device into standby. Tivo makes that unnecessarily difficult with a remote.

  4. I hope it works with “Echo”. I don’t use the wake word Alexa and have no desire to change the wake word on my seven Echos.

  5. Michael Burstin May 14, 2018 at 10:39 am

    @aaronwt – unless Amazon did something majorly stupid when they designed the API, Tivo shouldn’t know (or care) anything about the wake word. The wake word should be what the devices use to recognize when to listen for commands.

  6. So are any Amazon Alexa products going to work with Tivos (i.e. Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show)? I have an Echo Show in the Kitchen, but 3 other Echo Dots throughout my house that I could use if they work. This would be a nice feature for my tivos.

  7. @aaronwt – Your Tivo is not going to become an Echo device. You are going to use your current Echos to control your Tivo, so whatever the wake word is, is irrelevant to TiVo.

  8. Will this work with the minis? I’m wondering if putting each tivo in a group with a corresponding echo will allow Alexa know which device needs to be controlled.

  9. Mike S, yes.

    Robbie, Look at the linkage screen above. Each TiVo will get a name. I assume that’s how we differentiate. Although I do wonder about Alexa smarts – I told Echo to turn it off over the weekend and Alexa interpreted “it” as the Hue lights in the same room. Hm.

  10. Michael Burstin May 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    @Robbie, if it works like their IFTTT integration, then you’ll use your existing device’s name as part of the skill — so right now, for example, with IFTTT I say “Alexa, trigger kitchen skip” to issue a trigger for my kitchen Tivo.

  11. That won’t be nearly as easy to use I think. I already trip over my tongue some days to turn things on and off.

    I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use the groups function to build each room with a Tivo and an echo so that if I’m in my living room I can just say “Alexa skip” and since the 2 devices are in the same room it’ll know to skip on that Tivo.

    Admittedly, I’ve not really tried that functionality out much but I thought I had read about it several months ago.

    Now if only they could use mind reading…

  12. Any word on Google Home/Assistant integration?

  13. Fred Beiderbecke May 14, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I am looking forward to it. Now, if they skip can work consistently on my two boxes I would be happy.

  14. I don’t know if we’ll ever see this, but if voice could take the functions you normally use on screen. Alexa, what do I have scheduled to record tonight and Alexa would read you your to do list for that time period, and you wouldn’t have to turn the TV on or use a phone app.
    Voice search is powerful and I think every DVR and streaming device should have it. Voice control of transport functions is not as useful, you can push a button in that time frame if you’re a big person, but for little kids it could be useful.

  15. Some good insight from TiVo VP Ted Malone in the forums. They delay was having to scrap and rewrite their Alexa code after Amazon introduced the video-specific platform/controls. Also each Alexa device is mated up to a preferred TiVo unit, which should help – instead of saying ‘Alexa, tune ESPN on TiVo 1’ we should be able to say ‘Alexa, tune ESPN’ and it’ll get it. Like I said, something similar seems to be going on with my Hue lighting.

    https://www.tivocommunity.com/community/index.php?threads/alexa-coming-soon.560268/page-3#post-11509118

  16. Michael Burstin May 15, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    @Dave – I do hope you CAN give a unique name though – My kitchen Mini and living room bolt are all within range of multiple Echo Dots – so could certainly get overlap between them. The right Dot normally replies, but there certainly are times that the wrong one responds.

  17. Alexa Skill is now live, go install!

    —> https://amzn.to/2IgQLdI

    Michael, yes you can give a unique name. Also Alexa is supposed to be smart enough with those farfield mics to figure out where you’re speaking from. Although your experience suggests maybe not. :)

  18. Fred Beiderbecke May 15, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    No Alexa app on the Tivo to put the validation code in.

  19. App on my Roamio is still “coming soon” so no code to activate.

  20. I like that you don’t have to say “Alexa, tell Tivo to fast forward”, etc. That seemed like it would be pointless, with such a mouthful. The chosen method is much preferred, though it does disappoint me that I can’t use the commands to pause the kids’ TV in their room.

  21. Michael Burstin May 15, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    @Dave – yes supposed to :). And mostly, yes, the closest one replies – but every often, music starts up in a different room :).

  22. Just got a message from TiVo saying it’s working on my box! However… it errors out when trying to connect. In any case, looks like it’s almost go.

  23. My basement Roamio that we don’t really use for viewing (vs recording) has the updated app, but not our primary family room Mini – I’ll wait until it shows up there before testing.

  24. Michael Burstin May 16, 2018 at 9:12 am

    @Dan S: I assuming that they are just being bombarded by requests. I would give it a few days if you can’t get in sooner.

  25. @Michael Burstin

    Checked a little later, and I finally got the codes, but they kept saying they had expired. I think you’re right, I’ll give it another shot tonight.

  26. Works now… i think the codes are case sensitive… which seems a bit silly.

  27. Thomas Hoffecker May 16, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Wife and I have separate Amazon accounts and single Tivo account. Got Tivo’s matched up to correct Echos but wife has to switch Echo profiles for her to use the Tivo skill – less than ideal. I tried to repeat the setup under her Amazon.com account — that doesn’t work because you can’t do the linking without the 6 character code that the Tivo displays – doubtful the same code would work, which I didn’t write down… Anyone got any ideas?

  28. TiVo is doing a demo on Facebook Live at 3pm EST.

  29. Michael Burstin May 17, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I finally got it working on my setup. I discovered (on the Facebook TiVo.IFTTT.Innovate group) that you get errors if you have multiple devices with the same friendly name in your account. I don’t have any active devices with the same name, but I have 2 long unplugged Tivo 2s that had overlapping names).

    I don’t see a way to append on a name for the Tivo device to control, so I just have to hope that my kitchen and living room dots which are each mapped to a Tivo device don’t hear at the wrong time.

    I also don’t see the skill mentioning a “skip” keyword which the IFTTT/Alexa integration allows.

  30. It was easy to set up, and works quite quickly for the items it controls (e.g. pause then play), but it really controls very little. So it’s useful when you’re maybe in the kitchen away from the remote, and can’t quite hear what is going on. You can hit pause. But if you’re near a remote that is more likely the way you’ll go.

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