It seems that everything these days is gaining voice control, and we're okay with that. After all, it's much easier to bark out a command to our smartphone or other electronic gadget rather than navigate through menus and apps. Well, that level of convenience is now part of Plex, the popular media player software. Plex has partnered up with Amazon by creating a Plex Skill for Alexa devices.
Owners of an Alexa-enabled device (Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Fire TV, or Fire tablet) can leverage the Plex Skill to control their media. Maybe you have a specific movie in mind. You could say, "Alexa, ask Plex to play The Big Lebowski," or whatever flick you were thinking of. And if you didn't have a specific movie in mind, you could say, "Alexa, ask Plex what's new?" and Alexa will rattle off a list of what's recently been added to your library.
This added level of convenience could even cut short those inevitable moments with your significant other over what to watch. Here is conversation that Plex made up to serve as an example:
Confrontational Craig: I don’t think I can handle another episode of Arrow. I can literally feel my soul escaping through my eyes whenever I think about it. Literally.Sounds all too familiar, right? To enable the Plex Skill, there is some setup that needs to take place. You first have to tell Alexa to enable the Plex Skill, then link your account and ask her to "open Plex" to start using it. From that point on, you can instruct Alexa to ask Plex to play whatever it is you want to watch or hear on any of your media players. You can also ask for recommendations, find out what's on deck, and more (see here for a full list of commands).
Sensible Sarah: I’m pretty sure you mean figuratively. Anyway, what would you like to watch?
Craig: I dunno. What do you wanna watch?
Sarah: I dunno.
Repeat last two lines for 30 minutes.
Sarah: I know, let’s ask Plex! “Alexa, ask Plex to suggest something to watch!”
Alexa: You were right in the middle of an episode of Arrow. Would you like me to resume it?
Alexa: How about returning to something you haven’t watched in a while? Would you like me to put on the next episode of Celebrity Deathmatch?
Alexa: How about starting a new series? Would you like me to put on the first episode of Son of Zorn?
Confrontational Craig and Sensible Sarah look at each other. Eyes lock. Neither can find a reason to reject such a sensible proposal.
Sarah and Craig (in breathy unison): Sure!
Alexa (in her characteristic, optimistic tone): Okay, enjoy season one episode one of Son of Zorn: Return to Orange County!
Where this can get tricky is when trying to link your account. You need to enable Remote Access for your media server, which you can do in the Plex web app by navigating to Settings > Server > Remote Access. Some devices might also require opening up ports on your router. Some basic instructions for getting things configured can be found here.
There are some downsides to be aware of. The Plex Skill doesn't support playback of media from some Plex devices, such as Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles and some LG Smart TVs. You also can't use it to tap into Plex Cloud. We suspect at least some of these functions will be added over time, however, so keep your eyes peeled if any of those are important to you.