Roku to Launch Own Voice Assistant, License OS for Audio Devices

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Today Roku announced a new whole home entertainment licensing program which will allow OEM brands to build devices using its Roku Connect software which will also include the Roku Entertainment Assistant later this year. While the streaming company does manufacture its own streaming Roku devices, it has partnered with several OEMs to manufacture Roku brand smart TVs which have the Roku OS built right in. The licensing program will now allow OEM brands to build sound bars, smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems with Roku Connect allowing devices to connect to wirelessly to any other Roku device and be controlled through voice commands with its Roku Entertainment Assistant. TCL, the biggest seller of Roku smart TVs in the US will be the first partner to announce plans to build a device under the new program at CES next week.

A New Entertainment Voice Assistant

It is unsurprising that Roku wants to get into the voice control game. The company already offers voice search capabilities through select remotes and it was reported in September that the company was hiring voice experts. What is surprising is that Roku chose to build its own voice assistant software, instead of integrating with an existing one.

It could be a smart move as two of Roku’s main competitors for streaming devices are Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast, both which have the most popular voice assistants today. Roku is the industry leader in this space with 37% market share in the US and sharing valuable consumer data with the competition is not ideal. It also allows Roku to play to its strengths as an entertainment vehicle as its assistant will only support entertainment activities as of now, like watching a movie or playing music, allowing the company to position itself as an entertainment hub for the whole household and giving consumers a lower cost alternative to other entertainment players like Sonos.

The Roku Entertainment Assistant will allow its users to go remote less, which definitely has its appeal. It could also get another set of consumers comfortable with the idea of voice-first control and further facilitate the adoption of voice assistants overall. The question is whether consumers will embrace having to use yet another voice assistant to control another device in their home.

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