Roku Is Developing Its Own Voice Assistant

ROKU Connect will allow speaker manufacturers to build products that will integrate into the ROKU ecosystem without any royalty fees

However, while other voice assistant manufacturers such as Amazon and Google produce their own speaker hardware to house this software, Roku's plan is to rely exclusively on third-party manufacturers.

I asked Roku executive Mark Ely, who joined the company in September after his startup Simple.TV shut down, why Roku is licensing its OS and putting out reference designs rather than making its own series of low-cost smart speakers, like Amazon does.

TCL, Roku's partner in the TV space, will announce its first device under the new program during its CES press conference on January 8. The company will also roll out something called Roku Connect software, which will have a hardware requirement and will enable other manufacturers to build products that connect with Roku's TV-centric system. But the assistant could be asked to start music on a sound bar in the living room - or speaker in another room - even if the TV is not on by asking, for example, "Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room". To start, Roku will be partnering with designers of smart sound bars and speakers. Today, Magnavox is joining the ecosystem and will launch a range of Roku TVs in the Spring.

They are calling this ecosystem Roku Connect and it will be able to connect to Roku devices wirelessly to form a completely wireless home entertainment system. The announcement comes four years after Roku unveiled its TV licensing scheme that allows manufacturers to build smart TVs on top of its platform.

The company, which sells streaming television devices and connected TV sets, is planning to introduce a line of Roku-branded home entertainment devices, including smart speakers and other audio systems. Once the assistant is available, anyone with a voice-supported Roku device will be able to use voice commands to interact with their devices. Not only will this allow for multiroom streaming, but all the different products will be controlled by a single remote or voice commands. Both devices will be powered by the Roku OS and come with Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant. Roku already has a TV licensing agreement with the Philips brand.

Roku plans to release the service in fall 2018 in a free software update to Roku TV and other Roku players. Like the Amazon FireTV box and FireTV Stick, and Google's ChromeCast, Roku's own streaming boxes and streaming sticks have turned many a "dumb" TV into a Smart TV. "With the launch of our Mgnavox Roku TVs, we bring the latest smart TV technology to this trusted brand", says Peter Swinkels, general manager, product planning, Funai Electric.

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