Amazon is stepping up its presence in the TV and video streaming space to compete with Apple TV and Google Chromecast. The Post's Hayley Tsukayama explains what you need to know about the new device and how the change might affect you. (Jhaan Elker and Kate M. Tobey/The Washington Post)


NEW YORK — unveiled Amazon Fire TV on Wednesday, saying it wants to take the pain out of the digital video-watching process.

Navigating through the current digital video ecosystem can be a slow, complicated process, the company said, and it's hoping that  Fire TV will provide consumers who are watching video from a wide variety of sources with an easy way to watch exactly what they want.

"How do we make the complexity disappear?" said Peter Larsen, vice president of the company's Kindle division.

Larsen outlined three major problems that consumers face: difficulty finding what you're looking for, poor video streaming quality and limited, fragmented libraries of content.

To solve the first problem, Amazon has built voice search into the box — something that industry observers have long expected Apple to do with its Siri technology — letting users speak into the remote to find the genre, actor or title that they're looking for.

Addressing the problem of lagging video streaming, the firm has built the device with components normally found in top-level smartphones as well as advanced WiFi antennas to keep customers from that frustrating buffering experience.

On the third point, while the firm has been building its own library of media content during the past couple of years, it is also clear that it would need help to have a competitive streaming device. Other launch partners include Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and sports channels such as MLB.TV.

Still, Amazon was careful to highlight its own original content such as the Washington-centric comedy "Alpha House," which is coming back for a second season.

The firm also threw in a small curveball, announcing that the Fire TV will also work as a stripped-down game console, launching with titles such as "Minecraft" and "Asphalt 8" already in its content catalog. The company also showed off titles of its own design — made through Amazon Game Studios — such as "Sev Zero," a combination tower-defense and first-person shooter game.

Gamers can use the included remote to play games, though the company is also releasing its own, dedicated game controller for $39.99.

The device will cost $99, which is on par with Apple's Apple TV and Roku’s top-of-the-line set-top box, although significantly more expensive than Google's $35 Chromecast streaming stick and a similar device recently released by Roku. The Fire TV begins shipping Wednesday.

Disclaimer: chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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