Roku makes some of the most popular media streaming devices for TVs, and for the past few years the company has also been licensing its software to TV makers so that you can buy a TV that has Roku functionality baked in.
Now the company is getting ready to expand its licensing program with a new Roku Connect platform that will let users control smart speakers and smart soundbars using the same remote control that works with a Roku for TVs. The first Roku Connect device will be unveiled at CES on January 8th.
Roku has also announced plans to develop its own voice assistant that will (kind of) compete with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. It’s all part of Roku’s effort to take over your whole home entertainment system.
Roku’s new voice assistant is called Roku Entertainment assistant and it’s designed to let you use voice controls to do things like play music on speakers, soundbars, or TVs with Roku functionality. The Roku Entertainment Assistant will roll out as an update to most Roku TV models and Roku players (TV sticks and boxes) by this fall.
There aren’t many details about the voice assistant yet, so it’s tough to say if it’ll be able to do all the things that competing systems can. But the fact that Roku is using “Entertainment” in the name hints at where the company’s priorities lie. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get traffic, weather, or news updates or control smart home gadgets. But the only example Roku includes in its press release is “Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room,” suggesting that the Entertainment Assistant is designed primarily to give you new ways to find and play content on a Roku TV, speaker, or soundbar device.
As for the new soundbars and speakers, Roku isn’t just licensing its software to companies that are making their own products. Roku is also licensing hardware reference designs that support the Roku operating system.
Hardware makers including TCL have been doing something similar with Roku TVs for a while, and TCL will be the first company to unveil a Roku Connect audio device at Roku’s CES press conference.