Roku Debuts New Streaming Sticks and More Voice Interactivity

Roku has debuted a new streaming stick lineup, including one that comes with the new hands-free voice remote introduced earlier this year. The company has also updated its operating system with better voice features among other changes.

Voicing Roku

The Streaming Stick 4K and Streaming Stick 4K+ are designed to serve like their previous iterations for Roku, only faster at processing and connecting to Wi-Fi, especially under congested data circumstances. The Voice Remote Pro comes with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+. The remote is able to hear commands without touching the microphone button, offering hands-free activation of the voice assistant even when the TV is off. The microphone is powerful enough to hear the “Hey Roku” wake word from a dozen feet away, without the need to pick it up and hit a button. Users can create two custom voice commands and tie them to the blank buttons on the remote as shortcuts. If you do use it hands-free, the find my remote voice command will cause the remote to make noise until you find it. Power shouldn’t be an issue, though, as the rechargeable battery, which plugs into a micro-USB, lasts for two months on a few hours charge.

OS Update

Roku has also released an updated version of its operating system. Roku OS 10.5 is built around updating the voice and search controls specifically. Voice control can launch more channels and the voice assistants can hunt through shows and podcasts, including those played on Roku’s new partner Spotify. Users can even use their voice to enter email and passwords for logging into services. There’s also a new Voice Help guide in settings and more choices for audio configuration of speakers and soundbars. Meanwhile, for those watching wearing headphones, the new OS has as system that uses the smartphone camera to adjust the sync with the TV and adjust any lag between video and audio.

The upgrades continue the shift for Roku after it hired Brian Pinkerton, the former head of Apple’s Siri team, at the end of last year. Though the new features have been in development much longer than that, it all points to Roku wanting to up its voice and AI capabilities. With Amazon and Google expanding the features and partnerships for their respective voice assistants in smart TVs, Roku’s investment makes sense.

“The Roku OS is purpose-built for streaming TV and our laser focus enables us to deliver updates that have an impact and make streaming easier for our wide variety of customers,” senior vice president of Roku OS Ilya Asnis said in a statement. “With Roku OS 10.5, consumers who want to use their voice can now access new features and ways to get to content quickly. Live TV lovers have fast access to a one-click guide on all Roku streaming devices. In the Roku mobile app we’ve made private listening even better and added a Save List, as well as other helpful features. Roku audio device users can build out complete 3.1 or 5.1 surround sound systems for a truly premium audio and streaming experience. We hope everyone enjoys the update and look forward to feedback.”


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