In advance of next week’s annual tech-palooza CES, Roku announced plans to roll out new voice functionality, enabling the company to keep pace with Amazon and Google as the tech industry and TV stakeholders place big bets on voice recognition.
The Roku Entertainment Assistant, along with expanded home entertainment licensing under the banner of Roku Connect, will hit the market this fall. Investors sent Roku shares, already riding high since last September’s IPO, up another 6% on the news, to $53.30. Since going public, shares have soared 122%, compared with 7% for the S&P 500, as Wall Street has embraced the underdog story of an independent tech company more than holding its own against deep-pocketed rivals.
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Hardware licensing has become an important source of revenue for the company. Roku said Magnavox is becoming the ninth TV manufacturer to license its discovery technology, meaning that one of every five smart TVs sold in the U.S. features a Roku user interface.
While Roku’s video streaming devices already enable users to give verbal commands, the new system, which will be integrated into software, will enable wireless connections and integrated voice functionality, including of audio. Users of the new setup, the company said, will be able to say, “Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room,” and a smart soundbar using Roku Connect will play it even if the TV is off.
Licensing of Roku Connect, as with the smart-TV interface, will be an increasing objective for the company. The company plans to further detail the new initiatives during a press conference on Monday, the first day of CES, which runs through Jan. 11 in Las Vegas.
“We’ve always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs, and with an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
The added features will enable Roku to keep pace with heavily promoted offerings such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, which are also expanding into a range of newer smart-home frontiers.
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