Thanks to Amazon, every tech company is making a smart speaker.
Heavyweights like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are now competing with Amazon's Alexa platform and Echo lineup, by releasing their own speakers loaded with assistants. And let's not forget all those companies, such as Sonos, which are making speakers that showcase Alexa, Assistant, Siri, and Cortana. Clearly, there's no shortage of smart speaker options, and yet, Roku thinks it, too, should enter the race.
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What is Roku?
Like smart speakers, there are plenty of media streamers around - but few offer as extensive range of apps and channels as Roku. The company has been manufacturing set-top boxes and streaming media players for several years, including Now TV boxes, as Sky owns a share in the firm. And all Roku players run Roku OS, a user interface designed by Roku to make finding content as easy as possible.
Roku's IPO in September valued the company at $2 billion, and in a filling to the SEC, the company said it wanted to be the "streaming platform that connects the entire TV ecosystem". While none of this suggests it is actively working on a smart speaker, public tech companies do want to expand their revenue streams and often try to develop innovative hardware products in an attempt do so.
With that in mind, the speculation is mounting.
What's the story on Roku's smart speaker?
Roku quietly bought Dynastrom, a Danish audio startup, for $3.5 million in September 2017, according to a regulatory filing uncovered by Variety. Although the filling doesn't mention Dynastrom, but rather an unnamed privately held technology company based in Denmark, Variety found LinkedIn pages for several Dynastrom employees, including its CTO and CEO, who said they joined Roku in September.
The filing also noted that the acquisition was so Dynastrom could help "enhance" Roku’s player product offering. Mind you, Dynastrom develops software that can be integrated into loudspeakers in order to stream music throughout an entire house over Wi-Fi.
Variety previously also noticed some new job openings at Roku and claimed to have seen other public documents that all point to a smart speaker being in the works. A few of the job openings include a senior software engineer, audio and a senior software engineer, new products, and audio (expert). The company is also looking to hire a senior interaction designer, along with a voice user interface designer.
These two listings both suggest Roku is looking to develop a product that responds to voice commands. However, Roku does already offer some basic voice-control in its higher end products, with users being able to search for content through a Roku player using the included remote control. It may just be looking to enhance this feature, but Roku has also made some hires in recently that suggest otherwise.
Tyler Bell, for instance, is leading Roku's product management for voice, natural language understanding, automated speech recognition, and artificial intelligence. All these responsibilities scream voice-controlled smart speaker. Then there is Roku's director of engineering, Hari Ramakrishnan, who is working on “far field voice and audio engineering,” according to his Linkedin profile.
Want to know more?
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