Roku is developing its own voice assistant and will begin licensing its tech standards to other product makers in hopes of making it easier to expand consumers' home-streaming video setups.
The Los Gatos, Calif.-based TV streaming tech company plans to have its Roku voice-powered Entertainment Assistant update available this fall for most Roku TVs and players.
Roku also is launching new Roku Connect software that other device makers can license to create smart speakers and sound bars that will automatically link wirelessly to Roku TVs and media players. TCL, which already markets Roku TVs, will announce the first Roku Connect device at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 8.
"What we really envision is an ecosystem where the TV is the center of a complete home entertainment experience, where you watch TV and listen to music, but we see that moving beyond the living room to ... wireless sound throughout the home," said Mark Ely, Roku's vice president for product management for players and whole home. "We want to have it all work seamlessly together wirelessly, and you can control (it all) with your voice."
The Roku Entertainment Assistant won't be as powerful as, say, Amazon's Alexa. But the assistant could be asked to start music on a sound bar in the living room — or speaker in another room — even if the TV is not on by asking, for example, "Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room.”
How strong the artificial intelligence becomes in Roku's assistant remains to be seen. It will be hard to compete against Apple, Amazon, Google and other powerhouses for complete control of the home, says Brett Sappington, senior research director for Parks Associates, an Addison, Tex. research firm.
One advantage Roku has in its own space is that it already has a voice-operated remote control that could execute simple commands.
"Roku is in an interesting position in implementation of voice in the video space," Sappington said. "Roku already has inroads into TV makers, serving as the 'smarts' for their smart TVs ... (and) Roku also has relationships with major video services that already have developed apps for Roku-powered devices."
Roku holds the lead in the streaming media competition, used in 37% of U.S. broadband homes as of the first quarter of 2017, according to Parks Associates. That's up from 33% the year before.
Also growing its market share over that period is Amazon, which owns 24% of the market with its Amazon Fire TV devices, up from 16% the year before. Helping both Amazon and Roku advance was their quickness to bring 4K video streaming in their devices ahead of competitors Apple and Google.
These new initiatives represent a growing strategy for Roku, which went public in September 2017. Recently, the company launched a new Roku channel with free ad-supported movies and TV shows and a smart Roku TV programming guide that includes over-the-air broadcast channels along with streaming content (you need an antenna connected to your Roku TV)
Roku (ROKU) shares were up more than 6% Wednesday to $55.44 and have more than doubled since the company's IPO.
The company also announced that Magnavox will begin delivering Roku TVs this spring, expanding the number of brands offering Roku TVs to nine. About one in five smart TVs sold in the first nine months of 2017 were Roku TVs, the company says.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.