Roku today — in conjunction with a bit of new hardware — announced its next major software update. Roku OS 9.2 will start pushing out to supported hardware in September and brings with it a number of improvements to make it easier to find what you want to watch, and control the device you're watching it on.
The biggest change probably is the advent of "Roku Zones," which basically appear to be high-level categories. The "4K Spotlight" channel also is getting a redesign to better surface 4K content, which makes sense given the plethora of 4K content and hardware. (Never mind that a good chunk of Roku's low-cost hardware still tops out at HD resolutions.)
There's a big update for voice commands and search, too. My favorite probably is the ability to search for a movie by a popular quote. Hit the microphone button and yell "You can't handle the truth," and it'll theoretically return A Few Good Men. And on Roku TVs, you'll now be able to set a sleep timer via the voice remote.
Other improvements of note:
- If you use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant with Roku, you'll now be able to control multiple devices instead of having to pick just one.
- You'll now have some basic voice commands if you play local media through Roku Media Player.
- Roku TV now supports the Roku Wireless Subwoofer if it's paired with Roku Wireless Speakers.
- There's a new Roku Tips and Tricks channel
- Channels should launch faster
- Initial Roku setup has been streamlined
And that's pretty much it. Look for the update in due time.
The top end
Newer, better, faster
Roku Ultra takes everything we've loved about the company's top-end streaming player and updates it for the 2019 crowd. It's faster, more powerful — and keeps the same price.
Roku Express ($29 at Roku)
A more svelte Roku Express
Roku Express tops out at HD resolution, but this updated model is 10 percent smaller and should better blend in with your TV.
Roku OS 9.2 to Deliver New Search and Discovery Features and Enhanced Roku Voice Functionality
Roku Zones and Updated 4K Spotlight Channel Provide Curated Browsable Experiences; New Roku Tips & Tricks Channel Helps Customers Get More Value
LOS GATOS, Calif. – Sept. 19, 2019 – Roku, Inc. (NASDAQ: ROKU) today announced Roku® OS 9.2 will start rolling out to Roku devices in the coming weeks. The software update focuses on getting customers to content quickly and adds new ways to control the home entertainment experience. The 4K Spotlight channel has been redesigned making access to stunning 4K entertainment even easier. The new "Roku Tips & Tricks" channel features videos to help Roku users get the most out of their Roku devices. Roku Voice enhancements provide new voice control options while new channel performance improvements enable smoother streaming experience. Additionally, Roku announced a new streaming player line up in another announcement today.
"The Roku OS allows consumers to easily get to the content they want to watch so they can sit back and relax," said Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS at Roku. "With Roku OS 9.2, we are giving our customers new content-rich experiences around 4K, voice and home screen controls."
Features coming to Roku devices in Roku OS 9.2 include:
SEARCH & DISCOVERY
- Roku Zones – Search for a genre or topical subject for a curated selection of relevant content from channels across the Roku platform. Roku Zones are organized into browsable, categorized rows that may include new releases, titles that are free to watch, rentals and more. Examples include the "Drama Movies & TV Zone" or the "Superhero Movies Zone" which will be frequently updated providing users with a refreshed selection of entertainment. Additional genre and topical Zones may be added over time.
- 4K Spotlight Channel – A content-first, hand-curated selection of brilliant 4K entertainment from channels across the Roku platform now leverages the new Roku Zones architecture. Browse a wide variety of 4K titles across a number of categories such as Most Popular, Action, Drama, TV shows, 4K channels and more.
NEW ROKU VOICE FEATURES
- Set Sleep Timers on Roku TVs – Roku TV customers can use their voice remote or Roku mobile app to quickly set a sleep timer on their TV by saying things like "Go to sleep at 11 p.m."
- Search by Movie Quotes – Enjoy finding movie results by searching for the top quotes from thousands of popular movies across the Roku platform
- 4K in Roku Search – Use Roku Voice to say "4K movies" to see results for a variety of popular 4K movies. Entering a text search for "4K" will now return results including the 4K Movies & TV Zone.
- Support for Roku Media Player – Customers who use the Roku Media Player to play their personal music, movies and photos can now use Roku Voice to find, play and control stored files by using commands such as "Play," "Skip," and more
- Control Multiple Roku Devices with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant –Customers who use Alexa-enabled devices and/or Google Assistant to control their Roku device can now control multiple Roku devices in their home
ROKU TIPS & TRICKS
The new Roku Tips & Tricks channel is packed with helpful videos created by Roku to assist customers in getting the most out of their streaming experience.The channel is installed on all Roku streaming devices; and videos cover a variety of topics, including notable features, new products, popular support topics and more.
Additional updates in Roku OS 9.2 include:
- Roku TV™ support for the new Roku Wireless Subwoofer when Roku TV Wireless Speakers are paired to a Roku TV
- New shortcut section on the Home Screen designed to reduce the number of steps needed to complete popular actions. At launch, Roku players will have a shortcut tile to add channels and power the TV on and off. Roku TVs will have shortcut tiles to add channels and set a sleep timer. More shortcuts are expected to be added over time, including a shortcut on Roku players to turn your TV's power off.
- Channel performance improvements have been made to video start times within channels on the platform, as well as smarter caching of channels to reduce the number of load screens customers see when launching channels they watch the most, and making initial setup of new Roku devices faster.
Roku OS 9.2 will begin rolling out to select Roku players this month and is expected to roll out to all supported streaming players, including the Roku Smart Soundbar, in the coming weeks. Roku TV models are expected to receive the update in phases over the coming months.
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