Roku streamers and TVs now work with Google Assistant devices
Unfortunately, Netflix is a no-go.
David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
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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. Commands like the following are now available.
"Hey Google, launch The Roku Channel on Roku"
"Hey Google, pause my Roku"
"Hey Google, show me comedies on Roku"
Roku TV owners get even more commands, including TV on and off, volume and mute, input switching and the ability to change antenna channels.
The most popular streaming service, Netflix, is not supported by the system. That means you can't ask Google to launch Netflix or search for Netflix shows on a Roku device. Other apps may also have more or less functionality.
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. Asked whether the company's devices would gain similar support for Alexa speakers, Roku's representatives had no comment.
Roku and Sonos are reportedly working together to add similar control from Sonos smart speakers like the Sonos One, as well as enabling Roku's own voice assistant to Sonos speakers.
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To get Google Assistant on Roku, your device will have to be running the latest 8.1 version of Roku's operating system (and you'll need a Roku account). The system currently only supports one Roku device on an account at a time. To power on and off the TV, you'll need to have Fast Start enabled.
To set up Google Assistant on Roku you'll use the Google Home app. Go to Explore > Settings > Home Control > Add Device and choose Roku.
Other features will arrive in November through early 2019 as part of versions 8.2 and 9 of its Roku OS for TVs and streamers:
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.