Amazon Echo Orders the Roku About

You can add the Roku media player to the list of devices that can be bossed about by the Amazon Echo and its built-in AI: Alexa. [Julian Hartline] has figured out how to use Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo device with a Roku media player. He did this by using the Alexa Skills Kit, the SDK that provides a programmer’s interface into the functions of the device. That allows you to add functions to the Alexa and the AWS Lambda cloud service that processes the voice commands (Amazon calls this an Alexa Skill).

Rather than have the cloud service talk directly to the Roku, though, he decided to have a local node.js server act as an intermediary. The Alexa sends the voice command to the AWS Lambda service, which processes it, sends the command to the node.js service, which finally sends the command to the Roku. It works, but it seems a little slow to respond: see the video after the break. In the example shown, Alexa actually causes the Roku to launch Netflix and input a search string for the requested show. Pretty slick!

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Netflix Player source code released

The Netflix Player continues to gain in popularity. Roku has finally released the GPL code for their Netflix Player. Just today Forbes published that Roku would roll out a software update allowing it to stream from other online services. The diminutive device has no internal storage and just enough RAM to buffer the stream. Many have wondered how a Linux box is handling the DRM; this is purely a feature of the NXP PNX8935 processor being used. While waiting for the code, hackers have already popped the box open to see what’s inside. We found [hokiokie7]’s photos of the internals on Roku’s forum. The only really interesting thing we’ve seen so far is that the WiFi is on a daughter card that plugs into the USB. That should make it much easier to support other devices, if users ever manage to get into the system.

UPDATE: [mbailey] points out in the comments that he was able to telnet to the device.

Media streamers: buy or build?

The market is flooded with new media streamers, but which one is for you? One of the cheapest and easiest options is the unambiguously titled Netflix Player. With an active account, the Netflix Player streams movies and television shows from their online library (currently around 10,000 videos). It connects to the internet via 802.11b/g WiFi or ethernet, but delivers low-quality video if your connection speed is less than 1Mbps. It costs $99 plus at least $8.95/mo for a Netflix subscription. It runs Linux so hopefully we’ll see some hacks for it soon like we did with previous Roku products. A fine device, if you want to stream movies and nothing else, but if you want to stream data from other sources, like a network, usb hard drive, or (gasp) bittorrent, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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