Roku's Going to Start Letting You Use Google Assistant and Alexa to Control Playback

By Tom Pritchard on at

There are a lot of factors to take into account when you're picking a streaming device, or if you happen to cate what software your smart TV runs. For some people integration with smart assistants is key, especially that inevitably means being able to use your voice to control playback - and not go hunting down the side of the sofa for the remote. Naturally, not wanting to be left behind, the upcoming Roku OS 9.3 update is bringing support for Alexa and Google Assistant into the fold.

For those that don't know, Roku has always been one for treading the middle ground and not taking sides. So when Amazon and Google were having their spat that stopped services and hardware from playing nice, Roku was happily supporting both companies' streaming platforms without issue. Because it's all about consumer choice, and that's why support for Alexa and Google Assistant is launching at the same time, and on both Roku players and Roku TV.

That means you can control playback, search for content, and if you have a Roku TV you can even change channels, input, volume, and switch the TV on or off with your voice.

Those are the big two worth supporting anyway. Microsoft has all but given up on Cortana, Apple would have a fit if someone suggested opening Siri up to third party hardware, and nobody cares about Bixby.

Now what if you're not really into using a virtual assistant? Be it privacy concerns, not wanting to hand your data over to big tech, or something else entirely. Lucky for you Roku OS 9.3 also brings updates to Roku Voice, which also lets you control playback with spoken commands. Sadly there's no wakeup command, though, so you're going to have to press the same old button on your Streaming Stick + remote (or in the Roku app if you use something else) to ensure that it's listening to what you have to say. And it will understand what you have to say, because the update also ensures Roku Voice can understand more natural phrases rather than a rigid robotic set of commands.

Other Roku OS updates aren't nearly as impressive, but will be useful. They include faster boot times for devices and channels, a redesigned Roku app with improved navigation, and more.

The update is set to start rolling to Roku devices out in April, with Roku TVs getting the update over the coming months.