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Roku joins smart home market with voice assistant, new licensing program

Roku has announced several big changes that underscore the company’s own push into the smart home market. The company has officially unveiled Roku Entertainment Assistant, its own voice assistant for verbally controlling Roku OS devices. In addition, Roku has launched a new licensing program for “whole home entertainment” that will allow OEM brands to make smart home entertainment devices that work with Roku OS.

We’ve been hearing rumors of a Roku-made smart speaker for months, but the reality is a tiny bit more complex. Rather than creating its own smart speaker, the company has launched a new licensing program that will enable OEM brands to create their own audio products for use with Roku devices, the control of which will be possible through the newly announced Roku Entertainment Assistant.

Offering OEM brands a licensing opportunity isn’t new for Roku; it started doing so for Roku Smart TVs a few years ago. This time around, the licensing program covers smart soundbars and smart speaker hardware reference designs with Roku OS, as well as multi-room and surround sound audio solutions that work with Roku Connect software. That paves the way for whole-home audio on Roku’s platform.

Roku Connect device owners will be able to control them with voice commands and with a single remote control. Consumers won’t have to wait too long to get these Roku-centric products; TCL, the company that makes Roku Smart TVs, will soon announce its first device that’ll be launched under this program.

Though Roku Entertainment Assistant has been announced, the product isn’t available yet. Roku has revealed plans to develop the voice assistant, saying that it expects to roll it out to devices running its Roku OS some time by Fall 2018. Once it arrives, customers will be able to use it in a way similar to other voice assistants by using the hot words “Hey Roku.”