Roku Announces Alexa Voice Command Compatibility via an Alexa Skill
This morning Roku announced that its streaming player and RokuTV are compatible with Alexa, due to the creation of a Roku Alexa skill. Roku users can ask Alexa enabled devices to pause something, launch a streaming channel, and search for content. RokuTV users can use Alexa to control the power, volume, switch inputs, or change channels (if an OTA antenna is connected).
Alexa, turn on Roku. Alexa, open Hulu on Roku. Alexa, find comedies on Roku.
Devices running Roku OS 8.1 or greater are compatible. Any Alexa enabled device can be given Roku voice commands, including the Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, and Echo Plus. Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS commented on the new compatibility with Alexa,
Consumers often have multiple voice ecosystems in their homes. By allowing our customers to choose Alexa, in addition to Roku voice search and controls, and other popular voice assistants, we are strengthening the value Roku offers as a neutral platform in home entertainment.
Roku Wants to Be The Neutral Home Entertainment Platform
In the Fall of 2017, Roku began hiring voice assistant experts, only to announce at the beginning of 2018 it would be launching its own voice assistant. At the same time, Roku announced its home entertainment licensing program, allowing OEM brands to build devices using Roku Connect software, with the expectation of including the Roku Entertainment system later in 2018. However, instead of announcing the expected Roku Entertainment Assistant integration in the Fall of 2018, Google Assistant compatibility with Roku devices was introduced. Roku then made headlines again in October of 2018 when it was anonymously reported to CNET that Sonos and Roku may be discussing a collaboration to bring Roku’s unreleased Entertainment Assistant to Sonos Speakers.
Roku’s integration of multiple voice assistants is a smart move and follows the company’s goal of being a neutral platform. The devices offer several ways to control playback, volume, and search for entertainment. Voice commands can be used to search for content, pause something that is playing, and launch a streaming channel by speaking directly into a Roku remote, a Google Assistant enabled device, and now an Alexa enabled device. RokuTV users can do all of that in addition to controlling the power, changing the volume, muting the TV, switching inputs, or changing channels if there is an OTA antenna, using Roku’s remote, Google Assistant, or Alexa.
We have yet to see Roku’s in-house Entertainment Assistant nor has the company announced any updates so it makes sense to focus on increasing compatibility with popular voice assistants already in use. In addition, increased voice assistant compatibility allows Roku to be easily accessed by their nearly 22 million active accounts, no matter the user’s smart speaker preference.