Roku, best known for making the most popular media streaming devices in the USA, announced plans on Wednesday to expand its licensing program to include soundbars and smart speakers, as well as surround sound and multi-room audio systems. 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.
Roku also is launching new Roku Connect software that other device makers can license to create smart speakers and sound bars that will automatically link wirelessly to Roku TVs and media players.
The initial segment of the news includes smart speakers: Roku will put out reference outlines for both soundbars and WiFi-associated speakers, with the expectations that manufacturers will begin making stuff that will interface straightforwardly to Roku TVs and take into consideration voice control of Roku TV applications.
TCL has been confirmed as Roku's lead OEM partner and is expected to unveil its first device at a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday.
The introduction of the Roku digital assistant will essentially allow users to say things like, "Roku, play alternative music", and the proper connect-enabled soundbar will play the music even when the TV is off.
Roku, Inc operates television streaming platform.
And while Roku has supported voice-based search for some time, the company just announced that they're taking their voice support to the next level this year with their very own voice assistant.
The move is a critical part of Roky's strategy because Roku will not make any of these connected devices.
Offering OEM brands a licensing opportunity isn't new for Roku; it started doing so for Roku Smart TVs a few years ago. It clearly has Amazon Alexa in its sights and wants to be a key player when it comes to controlling people's entertainment experiences at home. And from Funai, look for that Roku TV logo to start appearing on Magnavox TVs as the Roku TV platform rolls out to that brand's displays. While specific model names have not been mentioned, the announcement states that this free software update will be available on most Roku TV models and streaming boxes.
Roku's Entertainment Assistant will go beyond Roku Connect's simple voice commands.