Roku was one of the first major players in the streaming media hardware space, and the company continues to offer a compelling lineup of entry-level, mid-range, and premium TV streaming devices.
But Roku faces plenty of competition from companies including Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung, which puts pressure on the company to offer competitive new products.
What kind of products? Smart speakers. Maybe.
It’s starting to look like Roku is developing an Amazon Echo/Google Home-like product that uses far-field microphone technology to pick up your voice from across a room.
Variety reports that a series of clues including a series of job postings and recent hires at Roku point to the company fleshing out its voice/audio features. Right now you can use voice search to find and play videos or other content on Roku devices that come with an Enhance Remote control (with a built-in mic), or on any supported Roku device by using a mobile app on your phone or tablet.
But Roku seems to be developing hardware and software with better voice recognition and support for an “voice user interface,” which suggests that you may be able to interact with some future Roku devices using only your voice. No remote control, app, or even display may be required.
Of course, it’s possible Roku has no plans for a standalone device like a smart speaker. Maybe Roku plans to release a next-gen media streaming box that connects to your TV just like all of the company’s current models. But in addition to using a physical remote, you’d be able to control it by speaking from anywhere in the room, making it quicker and easier to pause a video when you get up to run to the bathroom, allowing you to search for content at a moment’s notice, and maybe to do some other Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant-like things such as asking questions or getting news/weather/calendar updates.
Rumor has it that Amazon is working on a Fire TV device that incorporates smart speaker features. So why not Roku?
Check out the Variety article for all of the clues and let me know what you think Roku is working on in the comments.