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Roku streamers and TVs will work with Google Assistant devices

Hey Google, launch the Roku Channel.

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Soon you can talk to Roku using Google Assistant speakers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku's voice strategy is coming into sharper focus, and rather than go it completely alone, the streaming specialist has a new listener: Google.

Roku's popular streamers and smart TVs will soon gain the ability to take commands from Google Assistant. That means a Google Home or Google Home Mini speaker, for example, can control Rokus using "OK Google" voice commands from across the room.

Roku devices have featured Roku's own voice system on its remotes and the Roku app for years, but this is the first time Roku will work with hands-free, far-field control -- you know, talking to the TV.

People with Roku streamers and a compatible Assistant gadget can use voice commands to search for TV shows and movies, and to pause and launch channels, for example. Roku TV owners get even more commands, including TV on and off, volume and mute, input switching and the ability to change antenna channels.

Asked whether the company's devices would gain similar support for Alexa speakers, Roku's representatives had no comment.

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Coming soon to Roku after a short hiatus: Spotify.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition to a pair of new streamers, bringing its lineup to 7 strong, Roku announced additional extras coming to its players and TVs, including:

  • Spotify -- The music service's official app, absent from Roku's platform for nine months, will return in November, complete with Spotify Connect.
  • "Free" genre voice search -- Building on Roku's focus on stuff you don't have to pay for, free content will be available with voice requests like "show me free comedies."
  • Voice control for iHeartRadio, Pandora and TuneIn -- Voice commands will allow you to launch live radio stations, podcasts and artist stations from these three free services.
  • Automatic Volume Leveling -- The sound from a Roku TV or streamer can automatically even out jarring changes in volume, for example during a commercial break.

Timing for the arrival of these software upgrades varies. Google Assistant support will come first, "in the coming weeks" according to Roku, with other features arriving in November through early 2019 as part of versions 8.2 and 9 of its Roku OS for TVs and streamers.

Read more: Roku Premiere doles out 4K HDR streaming for just $40

And: Spotify coming back to Roku, adding Spotify Connect