Apple TV has Siri, Amazon’s Fire TV has Alexa, and now, Roku has joined forces with the Google Assistant to bring an established voice to its popular streaming players and branded TVs.
Roku, the No. 1 streaming player, had offered its own voice search, but Google’s Assistant, generally accessed via Google Home speakers, is more widely used by the public.
Roku, in announcing new products for the fall Monday, didn’t specify a time frame for the change, only saying it would be “soon,” and for most existing devices. Additionally, the Roku TVs will have more functionality with Google, allowing viewers to say “Hey, Google,” to turn their TV on and off, turn up the volume, mute, switch inputs and change channels, but only if the set is connected to an antenna.
Amazon, acknowledged by analysts as No. 2 in streaming devices, has built Alexa into a cornerstone of the experience, using voice control to open apps and find entertainment to watch. Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a line of Fire TV Edition branded TVs from Toshiba and Best Buy’s Insignia brand that connect to the Echo speaker to control the experience.
Roku introduced two new players, the $39.99 Roku Premiere and $49.99 Roku Premiere+, which the company says offer the ability to view 4K video content at lower prices. They will begin shipping to customers on October 7th.
The Roku line begins at $29.99, with the Express, which offers resolution up to 1080p, and goes all the way to $99.99 for the Ultra. That unit offers add-ons the lower-priced players don’t have such as a microSD card and USB slot, and an ethernet port for spaces with poor wifi connectivity.
Roku also announced a line of speakers, as an alternative to large sound bars. The stereo pair, which will sell for $199, are suggested to offer better sound for TVs and streaming devices. However, these are not voice-connected.
Streaming players have emerged as a hot gift for the holidays since they are low-priced, small and easy to wrap. According to eMarketer, Roku will have 32.4% of streaming viewership in 2018, compared to 26.6% for Amazon, 16.8% on the Google Chromecast dongle, and 13.2% for Apple TV.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham