Roku has been trying to expand beyond set-top boxes for a while. Ahead of CES, the company is announcing the new Entertainment Licensing Program to broaden its range of entertainment products for your home further.
Roku is working on a new entertainment-focused smart assistant, called Roku Entertainment Assistant, for all of its existing products, including Roku TVs and Roku players. Roku’s Entertainment Assistant isn’t your run-of-the-mill smart assistant that can set reminders, make jokes, etc. Instead, the company’s virtual assistant is primarily focused on home entertainment, allowing you to quickly play content from its services on Roku hardware and other third-party products that use Roku’s software.
This means you will be able to play music, start watching something on your TV or your Roku player using a single smart assistant in your home. That’s obviously possible on almost every other smart assistant like the Google Assistant, Siri on the Apple TV, Amazon Alexa — but Roku isn’t outlining how exactly the company’s smart assistant differentiates itself, especially in the entertainment arena. Hopefully we’ll get to find out more when the assistant launches later this fall.
Roku’s Entertainment Assistant plays a vital role in the new Entertainment Licensing Program, however. Roku is announcing a new platform called Roku Connect which third-party hardware makers like TCL can license to build products like smart speakers, smart soundbars, and more — powered by Roku’s software. Roku Connect will effectively act as the central hub of all of your entertainment devices in your home, controllable with the new Entertainment Assistant.
For example, if you have a smart soundbar with Roku Connect and a Roku TV, you can use the Entertainment Assistant to say “Hey Roku, play the workout playlist in the living room” and the assistant will automatically start playing the music on the smart soundbar even when the Roku TV is turned off. It all sounds pretty cool, but the platform will only shine if third-party hardware makers actually start building products using Roku Connect.