Roku planning to move into home audio market

Roku will be updating existing devices with its own voice assistant

Roku To Launch Own Voice Assistant & Expand Product Suite

Roku customers can now use voice control with a Roku remote or the Roku mobile app to pull up content on a TV screen once it's already on, but this new voice assistant would use natural language processing to recognize requests and pull up Roku content across different devices, even if the TV was initially turned off.

"When launched, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable consumers to use voice commands to enjoy entertainment on voice-supported Roku devices", said the company in a recent press release. It is launching a licensing program in the fall that will let hardware makers sell Roku branded smart speakers, soundbars and audio systems. TCL, which now manufactures Roku TVs, will be the first partner and is expected to announce its plans during its January 8 CES press conference in Las Vegas. Dubbed "Roku Entertainment Assistant", the software will be optimized for home entertainment (unlike most other virtual assistants, which typically have a much broader series of use cases). The Roku Connect audio platform and assistant will follow later this year.

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That's where the Roku Entertainment Assistant will also come in eventually. In the past Roku has emphasised its own neutrality in a world where spats over streaming devices are all too common, and it seems as though Roku Connect won't be changing that.

In addition to striking hardware licensing agreements with companies like TCL, Roku is also reaching out to the wider home audio ecosystem with a program called Roku Connect. "We want to have it all work seamlessly together wirelessly, and you can control (it all) with your voice". According to Roku, the Roku TV licensing program is going extremely well with Roku TVs accounting for more than 20% of the smart TVs sold in the US during the first nine months of 2017. Roku's Entertainment Assistant isn't your run-of-the-mill smart assistant that can set reminders, make jokes, etc. This will allow these devices to work within the Roku operating environment, controlled by voice commands or a single remote. Most recently, Funai announced that its Magnavox and Philips-branded smart TVs will be based on Roku.

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Following inception of its licensing program, total eight TV brands began rolling out Roku TVs in the North American region.

Amazon and Google also offer streaming sticks, the Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick, respectively, which compete directly with some of Roku's products. The functionality will be issued as a free software update to existing Roku devices.

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