Roku Devices Link With Amazon Alexa

Roku streaming player and Roku TV owners in the United States can now control their Roku devices using Amazon’s Alexa, Roku announced.

“Consumers often have multiple voice ecosystems in their homes. By allowing our customers to choose Alexa, in addition to Roku voice search and controls, and other popular voice assistants; we are strengthening the value Roku offers as a neutral platform in home entertainment,” said Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS at Roku, in a statement. “Roku customers can get to the entertainment they love faster so they can enjoy more of it.”

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Roku users with Alexa-enabled devices — including Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Spot and Echo Plus — can pause a show, launch a streaming channel and search for entertainment with such voice commands as, “Alexa, find comedies on Roku,” “Alexa, pause Roku” or “Alexa, open Hulu on Roku,” according to the Roku press release. Additionally, Roku TV users can turn on the TV, change the volume, mute the TV, switch inputs and change channels if there is an OTA antenna connected by saying, “Alexa, turn on Roku” or “Alexa, turn up the volume on Roku.”

Customers can control Roku devices running Roku OS 8.1 or greater using their Alexa-enabled devices. To access the feature, customers open the Alexa app, go to settings and select “TV & Video,” enable the Roku skill, and link their account.

The Roku OS offers access to 500,000-plus movies and TV episodes via thousands of free or paid channels, according to the release.

Study: Standalone Voice Assistants One of Fastest Adopted Technologies in U.S. History

Standalone voice assistants — or smart speakers — are one of the fastest-adopted technologies in U.S. history and have a 98 percent satisfaction rate among U.S. consumers, according to a new report from Accenture.

Half of online consumers globally now use digital voice assistants, with emerging markets leading the way in adoption, according to the report, based on a global survey of 22,500 consumers across 21 countries.

“Adoption and satisfaction with smart speaker technology is booming,” said Robin Murdoch, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s global software and platforms industry practice, in a statement. “Convenience and accessible price points are helping drive increased use, but maintaining this loyalty will require companies to stay relevant with consumer needs while creating and constantly renewing trust.”

The report, “Reshape to Relevance,” also found 93% of consumers globally expect their home device purchases, such as smart TVs or computers, to easily integrate with their standalone smart speaker.

The relevance of smart speakers is reflected in consumers’ expectations to use these devices for more-advanced tasks beyond routine activities like voice calling, playing music or eBooks, and accessing news, according to the report. They see value in voice assistants managing home security (61% of respondents), providing connected home automation (59%), paying bills and providing payment alerts (55%) — even making restaurant reservations (53%) and providing access to virtual medical advice (52%), according to the report.

However, trust is a potential impediment to greater adoption of smart speakers, with 41% of consumers citing privacy concerns and 40% citing security concerns with the technology. The report found 46% of consumers believe they don’t have control of their data with voice assistants, and 58% are more likely to re-evaluate their trust in this service by continually checking how their information is being used.

“Consumers expect their smart speakers to handle complex workloads and integrate with other products,” said Greg Roberts, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s North America high tech industry practice, in a statement. “Brands that offer advanced artificial intelligence capabilities will be well positioned for success. But to attract more customers, they will have to be transparent in how they store, use and share data. Establishing an agreed trust standard with consumers is essential.”

Panasonic 4K OLED TV Designed With Hollywood Help

Panasonic Jan. 7 announced the launch of the GZ2000, featuring a Professional Edition 4K OLED panel tuned in Hollywood that incorporates custom hardware improvements by Panasonic.

“Optimized by a leading Hollywood colorist, the new panel highlights unparalleled color accuracy and significantly better than average brightness levels,” according to a Panasonic press release.

Panasonic announced it is the world’s first TV to support the high dynamic range formats HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, as well as the HLG Photo format, the new still image format which brings still photography into the HDR world.

“Together, Dolby and Panasonic are bringing best-in-class audio and imaging technology to Panasonic’s TVs,” said John Couling, SVP, commercial partnerships, in a statement. “Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos perfectly complement the GZ2000’s advanced display, transforming it into an entertainment powerhouse.”

The GZ2000 is also “the world’s first TV with built-in upward-firing speakers capable of delivering Dolby Atmos immersive audio with total ease and convenience,” Panasonic announced. “The total audio system has also been tuned by Technics engineers.”

Supporting both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, the GZ2000 can integrate with a smart home setup.

Available in 65-inch and 55-inch screen sizes, the GZ2000 OLED features the color-tuning skills of Stefan Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld, founder and CEO of Company 3, is “a trusted collaborator of some of the world’s best filmmakers,” Panasonic announced, applying his skills as a colorist to such features as A Star Is Born, Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and 300. He uses Panasonic OLED screens as large-format client reference monitors in his daily workflow, according to the release.

The TV’s average brightness level has been boosted significantly and contrast handling improved, resulting in increased dynamic range, the release stated.

“HDR content now looks even more impactful, with the GZ2000 effortlessly able to reproduce tricky scenes of variable brightness and contrast — often found in live sports broadcasts and in action movies,” the release stated. “Because of this level of customization, combined with the exceptional color-optimizing skills of Sonnenfeld, Panasonic has created some of the most accurate, cinematic images ever seen on a TV.

“Additionally, in response to requests from Hollywood’s professional users, Panasonic has extended the range and reduced the interval between calibration steps at the darkest end of the RGB and gamma scales.”

The GZ2000 is also compatible with Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), an HDR format expected to be widely adopted by TV broadcasters, the release stated.

The GZ2000 also features Panasonic’s new My Home Screen 4.0, which allows viewers to tailor the TV user interface to their own preferences, the release stated. The layout of the home screen can be reconfigured to allow customized layouts. Access to VOD and broadcast content is also easier thanks to a redesigned GUI that includes icons for decks that provide shortcuts to live TV, connected devices and apps such as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. Viewers can even add frequently watched TV stations to the home screen.

LG Rolls Out Roll Up TV

LG Electronics literally rolled out what SVP of marketing David Vanderwaal called the “ultimate future TV”; it’s a TV that rolls out of the sound bar box below.

To oohs and aahs from the crowd, the company unveiled its LG Signature OLED TV R, which “magically rolls up,” senior director of product marketing Tim Alessi added during a Jan. 7 press conference at the CES show in Las Vegas.

The TV “brings freedom of design to a space,” Vanderwaal noted.

The TV can roll up only partway in the box, which includes a Dolby Atmos soundbar, to become a control console to check the weather and perform other functions.

In what is called the “zero view,” the TV is hidden completely and can be used to play music.

The company also announced LG’s first 8K OLED TV, device compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa (in addition to Google’s Assistant announced last year) and the addition of Apple AirPlay to the 2019 TVs.

In partnership with Qualcomm, LG phones will include the Snapdragon 5G mobile platform.

“5G will be a reality in 2019,” said Jim Tran, SVP and GM of handset products for Qualcomm Technologies, adding “you will be able to download a 4K movie in seconds.”

Dish Bows New Amazon Alexa Voice Features on Hopper

Dish June 12 introduced new Amazon Alexa voice capabilities that give customers the ability to set recordings, launch apps and navigate menus on Hopper family set-top boxes.

This update enhances the Hands-Free TV experience by building on Dish’s existing Alexa voice functions, including the ability to play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and search content.

“We are working to create the best Hands-Free TV options for our customers, and these new voice capabilities are an important step in that direction,” said Niraj Desai, Dish VP of product management, in a statement. “Dish customers already love the convenience that our Alexa compatibility brings to their home, so we’re continuously identifying popular voice commands to enhance that experience.”

In April 2017, DISH became the first pay-TV provider to offer direct compatibility with Amazon Alexa, according to the company. In October 2017, the company unveiled whole-home Hands-Free TV by extending Alexa support to all Joey clients, according to Dish.

Dish customers can ask Alexa to navigate, play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and search content based on channel, title, actor or genre. With the newest update, customers can also use Alexa to set recordings, launch apps such as Game Finder, Netflix, Pandora and YouTube, and access the Home, Guide, DVR, On Demand, Settings and Help menus.

All Dish customers with an internet-connected Hopper DVR (all generations), Hopper Duo, Joey (all models) or Wally can ask Alexa to control their TV content after pairing with an Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Fire TV Cube or another Alexa-enabled device. Each Dish set-top box must be paired with its own Alexa device.

For more information, visit www.dish.com/AmazonAlexaIntegration.

Polk Audio Unveils Amazon Alexa-Enabled Sound Bar

LAS VEGAS — High-performance audio brand Polk Audio Jan. 9 introduced the Polk Command Bar, a voice-controlled sound bar with the Amazon Alexa Voice Service built in.

Available in spring 2018, the Command Bar will retail in the United States for $299.95.

The Polk Command Bar includes integrated far-field microphones atop the sound bar to control master volume, mute, bass, sound modes and source selection with voice commands through the Polk Connect Skill. In addition, the Command Bar includes a dedicated HDMI port designed to fit Amazon Fire TV devices and other HDMI streaming devices with wide form factors. The Command Bar compatibility with Fire TV enables customers to use their voice to control Fire TV, Amazon Alexa-enabled devices and the sound bar. A built-in USB port in the rear panel can power compatible Fire TV devices. The Command Bar also allows users to control lights, locks and HVAC in addition a variety of Amazon Alexa-supported music services, including Amazon Music. Support for additional music services will be announced later in 2018.

“Intelligent voice services like Amazon Alexa have fundamentally transformed how we interact with our surroundings. However until now, the home theater was devoid of an elegant solution,” said Kevin Duffy, CEO and president, Sound United. “For the past year, we worked to develop a sound bar that profoundly changes how we interact with the home entertainment experience. The result is a product that produces Polk Audio-quality sound for movies and music, while simultaneously delivering voice control not yet found in a traditional sound bar.”

“Voice is an incredibly natural way to interact with your home, and we’re excited to work with Polk Audio to bring customers a new Alexa experience for the home theater,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon. “With Polk Audio’s new Command Bar, customers get great sound quality and Alexa voice control for an even better entertainment experience.”