Roku’s Recent Hires Hint At A Voice-Enabled Smart Speaker

September 19, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Roku’s recent moves in the job market suggest that the company may be developing a voice-enabled smart speaker, with the firm hiring a significant number of software experts with audio experience earlier this summer. Roku’s Redwood City, California-based Technical Recruiter Chris Atkinson and his colleagues posted several such openings in recent months, with the company still officially looking for a Senior Software Engineer tasked with the development of new audio products. The consumer electronics manufacturer recently hired a Voice User Interface Designer who joined or is about to join its headquarters in Los Gatos, California, with that particular job listing revealing that the hire is to work on new interfaces which are meant to be part of the company’s future products.

The sheer volume of new audio-oriented positions at Roku hint at the possibility of the company developing a voice-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) gadget, most likely a smart speaker, some industry watchers claim. None of the company’s existing offerings boast a highly advanced voice interface and while it’s possible that the firm is only looking to ennoble its current product portfolio with additional audio-focused features, numerous mentions of “new products” in its latest job postings related to audio experts hint that another major project is in the works. Furthermore, some of Roku’s recent hires like one Jim Cortez have specific experience with creating voice-enabled assistants and smart products, also suggesting that the company is planning a more serious push in this market segment.

The smart speaker industry in the United States is currently dominated by Amazon and its Alexa-enabled Echo device lineup, with the Google Home smart speaker being one of its most prominent alternatives. While Google is currently said to be working on a smaller revision of its IoT gadget, other tech giants like Facebook are also reportedly developing similar devices which are to be commercialized in the near future. With Roku being one of the more successful set-top box manufacturers in the country, it already has a large ecosystem that it could ennoble with a smart speaker integrated into its existing services and further strengthen its bid to become the ultimate entertainment service provider in the living room.