In short: Roku has announced a number of new features that are coming to the company’s Roku OS via an update and the most noteworthy of which is Google Assistant support. Roku hasn't specified exactly when Google Assistant support will arrive other than stating “soon,” although once it does land owners of “select” Roku streaming devices and TVs will be able to control various aspects of those devices using voice commands aimed at a Google Assistant device, or the Google Assistant on a smartphone.
Background: Roku confirmed the availability of Google Assistant support as part of a wide range of features and upgrades which will roll out along with either Roku OS 8.2 or 9.0. For example, users can also expect a return of a dedicated Spotify app, as well as the ability to control iHeartRadio, Pandora and TuneIn by using voice commands. This is in addition to Automatic Volume Leveling and Speech Clarity. Although, when these show up on any particular device may depend on the OS version. Speaking of which, Roku OS 8.2 is already in the process of rolling out to Roku TVs and the full rollout is expected to be completed by November. By the time Roku OS 8.2 finishes its rollout, Roku OS 9 will have started making its way to the company’s streaming players, with a view to the 9.0 update also landing on Roku TVs in 2019 - full completion of the update is expected before the end of the first quarter. This follows on from the other Roku-related news today where the company unveiled two new streaming players.
Impact: This marks a fairly big move by Roku as the company does already offer a universal search feature of its own on its devices. However, the use of Google Assistant will massively expand the interaction offered to consumers, while also making Roku devices more appealing to customers who already use the Google Assistant. Owners of Roku streaming devices will be able to play and pause content, find content and launch channels using the Google Assistant. While owners of a Roku TV will also be able to turn the device on or off, adjust the volume, change channels, and switch inputs. Assistant aside, both the Roku OS 8.2 and 9.0 update seem to be adding a number of features which will greatly improve the user experience overall. In other words, they are fairly big updates.