Google Assistant can now be used to enable voice controls for select Roku devices and televisions beginning with Roku OS 8.1 and continuing forward, Roku recently revealed. The range of functions controllable with Google's AI-powered devices and service covers the majority of the most common interactions with Roku but do vary based on the device in question. For example, users with Roku players will be able to control playback, search by genre or for specific shows or movies and by service, or launch the primary Roku Channel menu. However, those who have a television built around Roku OS, such as TCL's 6-series Roku TVs, can go quite a bit further and control the television itself. That means using Google Assistant via their phone or smart home speaker to turn on Roku, adjust or mute the volume of their set, change channels or inputs, or even turn the television on.
The list of devices gaining the features includes every Roku television model, Roku Express and Express+ (models 3700X, 3900X, 3710X, and 3910X), Roku Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ (models 3600X, 3800X, and 3810X), and Roku 2, Roku 3, and Roku 4. Roku Premiere (models 3920X and 4620X) and Premiere Plus (models 3921X and 4630X) as well as and Roku Ultra (models 4640X, 4660X, and 4661X) now have the feature as well.
Background: The update to include support for Google Assistant devices isn't necessarily surprising since Roku did announce that the feature was incoming at some point in the near future back in late September. However, Roku had initially announced that this feature would arrive with either Roku OS 8.2 or 9.0, rather than Roku OS 8.1 so it has landed just a bit earlier than expected. What's more, the update to Roku OS 8.2 had already started to roll out to many of the devices on the list alongside that announcement and was expected to land on all TVs before November. Roku OS 9.0 was scheduled to land on Roku streaming players following that. So it appears that the total number of devices supporting the integration is also a bit more than what the company had initially planned to include or that the change was able to be implemented without the need for a full update.
Impact: Whatever the case, the arrival of Google Assistant support means that more users than ever will now be able to control their media experience using only their voice instead of needing to navigate UIs with a remote. That's good news for Roku owners for relatively obvious reasons since it means a deeper integration of their entertainment into whatever other smart home connectivity they already have attached to Google Assistant. For Google, the integration marks just one more step forward in its bid to catch up with and outpace Amazon's Alexa platform in the IoT market.