Roku today announced that Roku OS 9.1 is headed to Roku devices.
It's got a bunch of nerdy updates that we'll get to in a second. But it's also going to implement a pretty big change in the way it presents shows. In particular, in the way that it presents shows on The Roku Channel.
The big deal is that Roku will now automatically play shows on The Roku Channel if you search for them by voice. So when you search by voice for, say, Canadian Bacon, it'll automatically start playing it on The Roku Channel instead of listing other places where you might be able to get your John Candy fix.
Updated May 6, 2019: Roku has expanded the list of channels that support this newer voice search feature. Here's what's up:
As of May 6, 2019, more than 20 channels now support this feature. When using voice search, movies and TV shows in AHC GO, Animal Planet GO, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Destination America GO, Discovery Life GO, Discovery GO, DIY Network, Food Network, HGTV, Hulu, Investigation Discovery GO, NBC, Science Channel GO, Spectrum TV, Starz, The Cooking Channel, The Roku Channel, TLC GO, Travel Channel, Tubi, and Velocity GO, will now begin playback in most instances, rather than display a search results screen. For optimal results, it's best to include the name of the channel in the voice request, such as, "Play The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu."
That's great for Roku. It's arguably great for users. And not so great for competitors.
Same goes for anything that's available in the premium services that you can subscribe to through Roku — and presumably that also means HBO. (Just in time for Game of Thrones.)
If what you've searched for isn't available in one of the supported channels, you'll get search results like normal.
So, yeah. That's definitely a big deal.
While we're talking about using your voice to control things, Roku OS 9.1 also will let you say "replay" to roll things back a few seconds, or your can toggle captions, or turn off the display while listening to a music channel.
Here's what else you need to know about Roku OS 9.1:
- Auto Sign Out Mode is now called Guest Mode. You can still tell it when to sign you out, so your stuff won't be on your friend's Roku forever.
- Guest Mode also is now available per-device, and you can log out from a device remotely.
- Automatic Volume Leveling — which previously made its debut in Roku OS 9 — is now coming to Roku TVs. (If you're using Roku TV Wireless Speakers, you've already had this feature.) It'll make it so commercials aren't way louder than the show you're watching. It's also still optional and can be turned off.
- Automatic Account Link means if you're signed in to a service on one Roku device, you won't have to sign in again on a new device. It'll just work. Nice.
- There's a new "My Offers" entry in the menu. If you're eligible, it'll serve up discounts on Roku products, accessories or subscriptions.
- Search results are being tweaked to return subsets of genres, and you'll be informed if you can stream something in 4K. (Those features are coming later.)
Roku TVs are all expected to receive OS 9.1. The following Roku Streaming Players will get the update:
4661X, 4660X, 4640X, 4630X, 4620X, 4400X, 4230X, 4210X, 4200X, 3921X, 3920X, 3910X, 3900X, 3810X, 3800X, 3710X, 3700X, 3600X, 3500X, 3420X, 3400X, 3100X, 3050X, 3000X, 2720X, 2710X, 2700X, 2500X, 2450X, 2400X
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