Amazon Fire TV Cube is getting webcam support (yes, really)

Amazon is rolling out some rather surprising functionality for the Fire TV Cube today by giving it webcam support for two-way video calling. That will enable users with a Fire TV Cube to place a video call to any other Alexa device with a display, such as another Fire TV Cube connected to a webcam and TV or something with a built-in display like an Echo Show. Fire TV Cube users can even place a video call to those using the Alexa app on a smartphone.

It's certainly an interesting feature and one that might not seem necessary at first blush, but with the COVID-19 pandemic likely keeping people at home for the holidays, it could be very useful indeed. Amazon today listed a few minimum specifications for webcams connecting to the Fire TV Cube, noting that they must support UVC, 720p resolution, and 30 frames per second. If you want an optimal experience, Amazon says that your webcam should support 1080p resolution with a 60-90 degree field-of-view.

Another thing to note is that this functionality is only for 2nd-gen Fire TV Cubes, so those of you with a first generation Cube will have to upgrade before you can use it. To start a video call, simply tell Alexa which Echo device to call – à la "Alexa, call Julie's Echo" – and once the video call begins you can issue a number of voice commands such as "Alexa, video on" or "Alexa, end call."

In addition to webcam support, Fire TV is also getting is also getting support for Ring doorbell camera notifications as well. You'll now see those notifications pop up on the display connected to your Fire TV, and you can view the feed from your doorbell camera or talk to the person at the door by giving commands like "Alexa, show me [Ring device name]" or "Alexa, talk to [Ring device name]," respectively. Strangely, even though it's getting webcam support, the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube will not support this functionality.

Finally, Fire TV devices will begin showing Alexa responses and as a partial screen overlay while you're watching TV as a way to get a question answered on the fly. This feature will be going live for every Fire TV device except for the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick and the 1st-gen Fire TV. Meanwhile, webcam support for the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube will be going live in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US in the "coming weeks."