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.”

Facebook Launches Smart Speakers with Video Option

Facebook Oct. 8 bowed a wireless smart speaker – dubbed Portal – which enables users to make video calls, access music and Facebook Watch over-the-top video streaming, among other features.

The Portal and Portal+ versions retail for $199 (10-inch screen) and $349 (15.6 inches), respectively, and will begin shipping in November.

Using artificial intelligence technology, the Portal’s camera feature recognizes body shapes and allows callers to stay in the picture frame while movie around. The devices also enable Facebook Messenger users to make conference calls.

“Our goal is to make you feel present in the same space as the person on the other end,” Rafa Camargo, a VP at Facebook, said in a statement.

With more than 30% of American households owning smart speakers, another 16% plan to purchase them, according to Adobe Analytics.

The global smart speaker market grew 187% in the second quarter 2018 with shipments topping 16.8 million, according to Canalys. Google led with 5.4 million Home model unit shipments, followed Amazon with 1.4 million Echo unit shipments. The United States accounted for 58% and 68%, respectively, of each company’s speaker unit shipments. China’s Alibaba and Xiaomi shipped 3 million and 2 million smart speaker units respectively.

Indeed, with Facebook’s previous consumer electronics ventures into virtual reality (Oculus) and mobile phones generating little consumer traction, the Portal is using Amazon’s Alexia voice-generated technology as well as Google Android mobile operating system to gain consumer interest.