February 7, 2017
Media player Plex, joining many device manufacturers, has added Alexa voice control for its first foray into home automation. Now, via the company’s Plex Skill for Alexa, the user can ask for favorite content, even music, from her Plex media library without a remote control. But Alexa for Plex isn’t as simple as it is for Spotify or Pandora, which rely on the Alexa mobile app. Instead, users have to enable Remote Access for their media server in the software’s setting, to turn requests into API calls in Plex’s cloud services.
TechCrunch says that the Plex user will find many limitations of the Alexa integration: “it can’t actually play your music directly on an Amazon Echo speaker, Amazon Tap, or Echo Dot yet … It also doesn’t support playback of media from some Plex devices, including LG Smart TVs, Xbox 360 and Xbox One players … Plex Cloud is not supported either, nor is voice control of the ‘Photos,’ ‘Other Video,’ and ‘Watch Later’ sections in the Plex media player software … Finally, you can’t use Alexa voice commands to navigate through the software menu” with any ease.
Although most of those limitations will be addressed in the near future, says Plex, current operation depends on the device being used. TechCrunch reports that, with “Android devices, like the Nvidia Shield, Plex can be launched and controlled when the app is running in the background” but, for devices like “Roku, the Plex app will need to already be open.”
Setup varies depending on the device and some users “will have to get a bit more technical — such as by manually forwarding a port in their router,” and if the user can’t make the Remote Access function, voice control can still work via its Relay feature. The final step is to enable the Plex Skill in the Alexa web app, via authentication with the Plex account information.
“Then, you’ll need to tell Alexa which Plex Media Server to use by default before you can start asking her to play movies and other content,” adds TechCrunch, noting this is done via the command “Ask Plex to change my default server.” In comparison, “most Alexa Skills can now just be turned on by voice, and then everything just works.”
The fairly complex Plex process “also demonstrates the advantage of having a voice assistant built into the hardware and software all from the same company.”
Alexa currently works as an integral part of Amazon Fire TV, and over 100 other streaming apps, including Netflix, Hulu, Vevo, HBO Now, Showtime and others. Still, “Plex still has a loyal user base of 10 million, and is working to better integrate itself into cord cutters’ lives,” and “may introduce further voice control for its content, including one day, the extended features it plans to add through additions like streaming news and more.”