Roku is working on smart speakers and its own virtual assistant

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The licensing programme was announced today, and made references to smart soundbars and speakers, plus surround sound and multi-room audio systems. The company has officially unveiled Roku Entertainment Assistant, its own voice assistant for verbally controlling Roku OS devices.

To help manufacturers incorporate the technology into their own products, Roku is providing reference designs for a smart speaker and soundbar. TCL is Roku's lead OEM partner and will announce its plans to offer the first device under the new programme at its press conference at CES on 8 January.

Additionally, the company said it plans on rolling out a new "Roku Entertainment Assistant" as part of an effort to improve the entertainment experience in people's living rooms.

"Consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way", Roku CEO Anthony Wood said in the announcement. More than half of Roku's revenue comes from sales of its devices, though the company has been generating more from advertising and taking a cut of subscriptions for video streamed through its service.

According to Zacks, "Roku, Inc.is involved in creating streaming platform for delivering entertainment to the television". Users will be able to start playing music from a personal device, including phones and tablets, and then distribute it across the speakers in their homes through Roku Connect.

Since then, eight TV brands have started selling Roku TVs in North America.

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Asked whether an OEM could use a Google Assistant or Alexa, or if it was just confined to the Roku Entertainment Assistant, a Roku rep told CNET that it would be up to the OEM.

While the likes of Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and the Google Assistant offer such smart capabilities though the Amazon Echo and Google Home Mini respectively, Roku won't butt heads with the tech giants as it plans to keep its virtual assistant entertainment-focused. Roku device's current voice controls are limited to performing simple search requests and launching apps. Not only will this allow for multiroom streaming, but all the different products will be controlled by a single remote or voice commands.

Roku said that TCL is the main brand that will have a gadget under Roku's new diversion licensing program, however it declined to share precisely what sort of device this will be in front of CES.

Roku also has integrated TV deals in place with several companies, including RCA, Element Electronics, Hitachi America, Sharp, Insignia (Best Buy's in-house brand), Hisense, and Funai Electric.

Roku expects the Roku Entertainment Assistant as well as the first batch of devices linked to the new licensing program to appear by the fall of 2018.

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