Roku made big announcements ahead of CES 2018 and it not only plans to launch new home entertainment devices, but also its very own digital assistant. Called the Roku Entertainment Assistant, it will compete with Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, but without its rivals' versatility. While the other virtual assistants have a broader range of uses and can deliver the news, order things online, control other devices, and such, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, as the name itself suggests, is focused on home entertainment. It will allow users to play music via voice commands, for instance, but it doesn't seem to go beyond music and media applications. Considering that Roku is the dominant streaming media player brand in the United States, however, optimizing its digital assistant to cater to entertainment makes sense.
At the same time, unlike the aforementioned rivals, Roku will only deliver the voice assistant software and it will leave the hardware design, development, and integration to others. Roku will license the software for free to OEMs, including existing Roku TV partners, so they can come up with their own products and implementations. TCL is the first one to take advantage of this, planning to unveil a Roku Connect-powered device in a few days, at CES 2018. As it seems, Roku is not looking to replace Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other smart speakers, but serve as a voice option to complement those devices with Roku Entertainment Assistant. It will enable users to control their Roku player, Roku TV, or other Roku audio devices from Roku partners, aiming to make things more convenient.
The new Roku Entertainment Assistant should start rolling out as a free update by this fall, along with Roku Connect, to most Roku TVs and players. The assistant will work with devices that run Roku OS and users will be able to access the Entertainment Assistant either through the Roku remote or the Roku app. Users can utter a voice command for the assistant to play music, for instance, and it will start playing the requested music on the Roku Connect-enabled soundbar even if the TV is off. This approach to license the software for free should boost the appeal of Roku TV to both OEMs and consumers, expanding the Roku streaming ecosystem, attracting more customers, and driving user engagement. Roku plans to make money as users interact with content and advertising on its platform.