Have a smart device with a sleep mode that would normally prevent it from power toggling remotely? Amazon today announced Wake-on-Lan Controller, which enables its Alexa voice assistant to switch on devices that can’t be woken up via the cloud.
From a user perspective, invoking it is dead simple. Saying something like “Alexa, turn on my TV” instructs the new Wake-on-LAN Controller to send a special command — a Wake-on-LAN (WoL) packet referred to in the developer documentation as a “Turn on Directive” — over Wi-Fi or ethernet to the target device via its MAC address. It’s woken from sleep immediately — there’s no need to update the Alexa skill associated with the TV or other entertainment device and no additional steps.
TVs from VIZIO, LG, and Hisense already support the Wake-on-LAN Controller, and customers will be able to take advantage of it “in the next several months.” But it’s ultimately up to individual manufacturers whether they use the Wake-on-LAN Controller or the cloud to wake a device, according to Amazon.
“Although device makers can already use the Alexa Smart Home API to control TVs and other equipment, until today customers were often not able to power on devices in low power mode,” Brian Crum, senior product manager at Amazon, wrote in a blog post. “We have now delivered an alternative that can help power on devices, without requiring device makers to make hardware changes … Customers who have enabled the skill associated with their TV or other entertainment device will not need to take any additional steps to enable the feature.”
Wake-on-Lan Controller follows hot on the heels of the Alexa for PC app, which became broadly available to Windows 10 users in the U.S., U.K., and Germany last week, and New Release Notifications, which lets users follow artists and receive notifications when new songs or records become available on Amazon Music.
In related news, Amazon debuted the Music Skill API last month, which allows developers to stream songs from online services to Alexa devices and Amazon Echo speakers. Developers don’t need to build their own voice user interface — instead, they simply provide music metadata to Amazon on a “regular basis,” and Amazon takes care of updating the voice models in the background.
And in mid-October Amazon launched a public beta of Alexa Presentation Language (APL) — a suite of tools to help developers create “visually rich” skills for Alexa devices with screens, such as Amazon’s Echo Show, Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and Echo Spot. The company also debuted new white-box Alexa original design manufacturer (ODM) hardware: Calix’s GigaSpire Max and Gemtek’s Vita.