Roku, which makes devices for streaming internet video on television sets, announced Wednesday that it plans to develop a voice assistant and let manufacturers create Roku-connected speakers, stepping up its competition with Apple, Google and Amazon.com.
Owners of Roku TVs and players will get the voice-powered Roku Entertainment Assistant free in a fall software update, the company said. The assistant will enable users to use voice commands to play music, TV shows and movies on voice-supported Roku devices.
Roku also envisions being at the center of a home entertainment network with which people can easily connect a smart soundbar, add speakers in different rooms and control them with voice commands.
Under Roku's licensing program, third-party companies can make soundbars, smart speakers and audio systems that use Roku Connect software, which enables users to connect those elements wirelessly and control them with voice commands or a single remote control. Equipment makers also will be able to license smart soundbar and speaker hardware reference designs, as well as the Roku operating system, Roku said.
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Roku said TCL, its lead manufacturing partner, will announce a device under the licensing program Monday.
Google, Amazon and Apple offer streaming-video boxes that connect with their respective voice assistants, but Roku has hung on to a large wedge of market share.
Roku captures about 23 percent of connected-TV users, according to an October report from research firm eMarketer. About 38.9 million people in the U.S. are estimated to use a Roku device once a month, compared with 36.9 million people using Google Chromecast, 35.8 million people using Amazon Fire TV and 21.3 million using Apple TV.
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