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article imageRoku announces plans to build its own voice assistant

By James Walker     Jan 3, 2018 in Technology
Roku, manufacturer of streaming media players, has announced it's planning an expansion into home audio that will include its own digital voice assistant. The company will license its technology to manufacturers of smart speakers and soundbars.
Announced ahead of CES today, the plan will extend Roku's presence in the home entertainment market. The company has enjoyed success with its popular TV streaming systems that add Internet-enabled functionality. It's now looking towards home audio as its next major market, aiming to give consumers a way to build complete home theatre setups connected through its software.
Roku won't be building the new hardware itself, instead taking a similar approach to the one it used for TVs. The company will license its wireless audio platform out to existing hardware manufacturers. They'll be able to use Roku's platform as a basis for their devices, ensuring full compatibility with the company's new Roku Connect wireless audio software.
Roku Connect will come with a smart voice assistant called the Roku Entertainment Assistant. Optimised for home entertainment, it'll allow you to interact with Roku devices using simple voice commands. Commands will be received by all your Roku devices, enabling identification by name. If you tell Roku to "play jazz in the living room," the assistant will be able to work out which device to turn on.
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The launch will see Roku move into direct competition with companies including Apple, Google and Amazon. All three have renewed their efforts in the living room over the past year, using smart speakers and audio hardware as a way to pitch their respective digital assistants. Roku's now joining the fray with an assistant that's specifically targeted at home entertainment, something the company said will help consumers simplify their theatre connectivity.
"We've always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs, and with an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way," said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
"Consumers will love the benefits of a home entertainment network, such as having more affordable options, adding one device at a time, using their voice, having a simplified setup and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control."
The announcement comes four years after Roku unveiled its TV licensing scheme that allows manufacturers to build smart TVs on top of its platform. Today, Magnavox is joining the ecosystem and will launch a range of Roku TVs in the Spring. The Roku Connect audio platform and assistant will follow later this year. The functionality will be issued as a free software update to existing Roku devices.
More about Roku, Home entertainment, digital assistant, Home theatre, TV