Solution: Alexa Video Calling on Mom's Big-screen TV?

By: Frank Engelman.  Updated: June 19, 2021.

 

The Problem: Need Help Making Alexa Useful

I am setting up Alexa for my parent who lives at a distance. I am unsure what features to include, or how to set it up so it is as useful as possible..... More about the Problem


 

Solution: Alexa Video Calling on Mom's Big-screen TV?

We regularly use a technique for projecting your phone screen onto your TV, thus allowing you to do video calls on a big screen (see this solution for how to do that).

But, your elderly relative may not be comfortable doing that and or may not use a smartphone. Now there is a simpler solution!

Up until recently, the solution linked to above was the only way to “cast” an Alexa Video Call to a big screen. Amazon just released a way to do it with a Fire TV Cube.

 

See this Solution on Video

 

 

What You Need: The Kit

Here are the things you definitely need (at your mothers house):     [links go to Amazon and are affiliate links]

Optional extras if you don't want your parent to need to remember the Alexa commands:

  • An Amazon Echo Button (currently on eBay only) and

  • an Echo Dot to speak the Alexa Commands

     

Note that it must be a 2nd generation Fire TV Cube (2019). Look for this model number on the bottom, Model No. A78V3N if you already have one that you plan on giving her. Amazon support has stated that it needs FireTV OS revision 7.2.2.9 or higher, so be sure to update.

 

 

Setting It Up

  • If your Mom doesn’t have one, please look at our article on setting up a Fire TV Cube
  • Of course, your Mom will need an Amazon account and Alexa Calling setup. Here is an overview article, if you haven’t done that.

 

The Steps

Complete the setup of the Fire TV Cube through the Alexa app on your phone while logged into your Mom’s Alexa account

  • Tap devices
  • Tap Echo & Alexa
  • Tap the Fire TV Cube’s name
  • Be sure to enable Communications
    • Calling & Messaging
    • Drop In (Permitted contacts only)

 

Once you’ve set up her Fire TV, the next step is to add the webcam through the micro-USB adapter

  • Click Okay to complete the installation

 

It’s Time to Test the Setup

From an Echo Show or your phone using the Alexa app in YOUR Alexa account

  • Try making a test video call by saying, “Alexa, call Mom”

 

On the Fire TV Cube, when you see the call coming in

  • Say “Alexa, answer”
    • After the icon showing that the camera is turned off appears
  • Say “Alexa, video on”

 

Each video call will begin with the video turned off. To adjust volume, say “Alexa volume up.” Once the video call ends, your video will turn off.

 

What if my Mom can’t remember the commands?

Our article on creating Alexa Routines may be of some help.

In there, you will see an example using an Echo button to trigger an Alexa Action. In the routine below, the Echo Dot speaks the commands to the Fire TV Cube to accept the video call and turn on the camera

You will need to add an Amazon Echo Button (currently on eBay only) and an Echo Dot to speak the Alexa Commands. See the "Kit" above.

 

screenshot 1

 

screenshot 2

 

 

See this Solution in Action on Video

 

 

 

More Like This

This is part of a series of "Problems" and DIY Technology "Solutions" to the challenges faced by older adults, by Frank Engelman. 

 


 

Discuss this solution

 

from Mick (unverified) at April 02, 2021

Hi there, would this even work without the fire tv cube, just with a smart-tv, who has build in Alexa and a webcam connected to the TV?

 

from faengelm (member) at April 02, 2021

Hello Mick,

I have a Samsung Smart TV with built-in Alexa, but I haven’t found a way to use Alexa Calling.

When I try “Alexa, call Reenie” it responds with “Calling with Alexa is not supported on this device”

I believe the smart TV vendors have configured Alexa to offer only general Alexa commands such as time/weather and smart home controls such as lighting and viewing web cameras.

Even "Alexa, show my photos" gets a response of "Amazon photos is not supported on this device" and tells me to get a Fire TV!

Frank

 

from Jeff Smith (unverified) at August 06, 2021

Hi, My mum is watching terrestrial TV or viewing a BluRay on HDMI #1. The FireTVCube is on HDMI #2. Is there anyway to get the FireTVCube to take over the TV and switch it from HDMI #1 to HDMI #2 when a call is incoming, and release the TV back to HDMI #1 when the call ends?

 

from faengelm (member) at August 09, 2021

Hi Jeff,

The Fire TV Cube can automatically pause a show on an incoming Alexa Call and resume the show after the call is over, BUT it can’t switch HDMIs.

There is no means in Alexa Routines to detect an incoming call starting or ending meaning no way to add this feature.

However, your mum could say these Alexa commands to switch the inputs

“Alexa, HDMI 1”

“Alexa, HDMI 2”

If these are too hard, you could create Alexa Routines with “Custom Actions” to make the commands simpler.

“Alexa, my calls”

“Alexa, my shows”

You could even add buttons to perform these actions.

If you really want to automate this for her, you could add an Echo device at YOUR house, but on your mum’s Alexa account as shown in this article.

It would remain part of your mum’s account, but you could remotely control her Fire TV Cube even though it’s on different networks!

You could then speak the “HDMI #2” command to it when you are going to call her and then a second command when the call is over to switch it back to “HDMI #1”

NOTE: I suggest you change the wake word or mute it so that you don’t inadvertently speak commands to it when talking to your devices.

 

 

from Adrian T (unverified) at October 16, 2021

Or... you can simply get an ONSCREEN Spark from https://onscreeninc.com and do this in about 5 minutes. :)

 

from faengelm (member) at October 17, 2021

Hello Adrian,
Thanks for the tip on the ONSCREEN Spark product. I hadn’t seen that device and I just ordered one for testing. 

The HDMI switching is a nice feature and the “NEW! SilverSCREEN: For Grandparents” sounds interesting.

Have you tried Auto-answer? I didn’t see anything in the online instructions.

Does it support Closed Captions in Zoom?

 

from faengelm (member) at November 19, 2021

Hello Jeff,

I found that although a Fire TV Cube can't switch back to the HDMI input you were viewing after an Alexa Call, my new Amazon Onmi Smart TV can switch back automatically.  

This can be a great feature for those having trouble switching back to their cable, satellite, or DVD player when an Alexa Call is over.

 

from faengelm (member) at October 21, 2021

Hello Adrian,

I tested an ONSCREEN Spark and I agree with you that it could solve Jeff Smith's mum’s HDMI switching issue. I found that the auto-answer feature works well and is very similar to Alexa Calling drop-in, but without call captions.

I find that this product is very similar to Alexa Calling, but also has a few issues for those without a mobile phone

  • No way to place video calls
  • No way to end a call
  • No way to join a Zoom meeting
  • Requires a mobile number to set up (just like Alexa Calling as they must use Google Voice or TextNow)

I’m hoping that their “SilverSCREEN” version contains some improvements

 

from faengelm (member) at November 10, 2021

Please note that although you can "drop in" on a loved one's Fire TV cube, unlike drop in on an Echo Show, their camera will NOT be automatically turned on. The only Fire TV I have found that claims to support this is the Amazon Smart TV Omni series

If a compatible web cam is connected, the camera is automatically enabled for Drop In.

 

from tel-editors (member) at May 27, 2022

See also this DIY suggestion that lets you zoom in to see your parent if they are not close enough to the camera: Control the other persons camera.

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Target customers & users: 
Family of the aging
How important is it?: 
Minor inconvenience
Key words: