Roku building a voice assistant as it chases Amazon, Google


In addition to expanding its reach to smart speakers and audio devices, Roku is also in the process of developing its own voice assistant.

The Roku Entertainment Assistant will form part of Roku Connect, a platform being developed by the company that allows smart speakers, soundbars and other entertainment devices to be connected together wirelessly to form a kind of interconnected home entertainment platform.

Roku is merely making announcements right now, though it plans to release reference designs for soundbars and Wi-Fi connected speakers, with the goal of making it easier for speaker manufacturers to start making Roku wares.

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Ahead of CES in Las Vegas next week, the company announced a plan to license its new Roku Connect software to OEM makers of soundbars and smart speakers. For example, a user may be able to tell the Roku Entertainment Assistant to play music by a specific artist through the speakers located in the living room. Naturally you won't need to say the whole thing to activate the Roku assistant, all you'll need to say is "Hey, Roku". Just ask Roku to start up your favorite streaming service, TV show or movie and it will take care of the rest.

The company added that it will be rolling out the Roku Connect software, which will have a hardware requirement, plus it will allow other manufacturers to build products that connect with the company's TV-centric system. They have also officially unveiled their very own Roku Entertainment Assistant, or their version of Google Assistant and Alexa, a voice-controlled tech to verbally control Roku OS devices. Once the assistant is available, anyone with a voice-supported Roku device will be able to use voice commands to interact with their devices. It clearly has Amazon Alexa in its sights and wants to be a key player when it comes to controlling people's entertainment experiences at home.

From that point forward, eight TV brands have begun offering Roku TVs in North America.

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The news reveals Roku's larger ambitions to establish a home entertainment network.

Roku also has integrated TV deals in place with several companies, including RCA, Element Electronics, Hitachi America, Sharp, Insignia (Best Buy's in-house brand), Hisense, and Funai Electric.

Funai Electric is set to expand its Roku TV licensing to include its Magnavox brand.

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The Roku Entertainment Assistant is designed with home audio in mind, but Roku will not be making its own speakers - at least not yet.