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Roku joins smart home market with voice assistant, new licensing program

Roku joins smart home market with voice assistant, new licensing program

Roku is getting into the smart speaker space - building a voice assistant that the company hopes other device makers will adopt and install in their products too. TCL, one of the first companies to offer Roku TVs, is coming onboard as the first Roku Connect licensee, and Roku says it will unveil its first product at CES-the mammoth electronics trade show-in Las Vegas next week.

This new platform will let the company's partners - like those who are already manufacturing Roku-branded TVs - offer products that work together as an entire home entertainment network.

Roku will be pushing a software update for existing Roku devices to enable both Roku Entertainment Assistant and Roku Connect which is expected to come somewhere in the second half of 2018.

"Consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way", Roku CEO Anthony Wood said in the announcement. If you tell Roku to "play jazz in the living room", the assistant will be able to work out which device to turn on.

There are a lot of different smart TV platforms to choose from these days, but if you want access to the most content possible and don't want to be stuck between middle school feuds, Roku is the way to go.

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It looks like Roku has plans to join tech giants Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung in the voice-activated assistant race.

Starting with Roku Connect, this is a new platform the company is launching for smart speakers. (You're not going to order groceries with Roku.) But the idea is similar: people will able to talk to Roku ("Hey Roku") and ask the entertainment system to play a movie, music or anything the device streams. Today, Roku refuses to be defined as just a TV device. It is also introducing Roku Connect, which will allow devices to communicate wirelessly and respond to voice controls. That's obviously possible on nearly every other smart assistant like the Google Assistant, Siri on the Apple TV, Amazon Alexa - but Roku isn't outlining how exactly the company's smart assistant differentiates itself, especially in the entertainment arena.

Roku launched its TV licensing program at the 2014 CES.

Roku has announced several new initiatives created to grow the reach of its home entertainment platform. Most recently, Funai announced that its Magnavox and Philips-branded smart TVs will be based on Roku.

Roku plans to release the service in fall 2018 in a free software update to Roku TV and other Roku players.


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