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If the rumors are true, then it won’t be long before Siri makes her debut appearance on Apple TV. But why wait for Apple to bring the voice-recognition goodness to your home streaming setup when Roku is willing to help out in that department right now?
Today the company is announcing several changes to its four-device lineup of media streamers, including the ability to conduct your searches just by speaking into the remote. It’s only available on the range-topping Roku 3 (which maintains its name despite the new features), but because the price has stayed put at $99.99, it’s now a much better deal.
Ordinarily, I’m no fan of voice recognition unless it saves me time, clicks, or both. I almost never use Siri. But when it comes to navigating those stupid on-screen keyboards that nearly every set-top box makes you use for everything from your Wi-Fi password to search, I’d do almost anything to avoid them. That makes voice-based searching a godsend. At our briefing, Lloyd Klarke, director of product management, gave a demo of the feature in action. The voice commands, just as with Siri, are not interpreted locally on the Roku 3 but rather processed in the cloud by a third-party partner that Roku declined to name. Just press the magnifying glass button (which unfortunately replaces the handy skip-back button) on the remote and speak. The demo seemed to work quickly and accurately. Not willing to shell out for a new Roku? “Consumers that have a Roku 3 today or any other current generation Roku player will be able to use voice search through the Roku mobile app for iOS and Android,” Klarke told us.
The Roku 2 also gets a spec bump, but this simply means the 2 is now as speedy and responsive as the 3. On the back end, the biggest change to the Roku system is the ability to conduct an almost universal Roku Search of every streaming channel you subscribe to. I say “almost” because in order for it to work, channels need to be compatible with Roku’s search API and, at this time, only the major players have done this. Still, it’s a vast improvement that makes finding something to watch way easier. Users will no doubt appreciate the ability to see every match for their favorite actors.
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On a related note, you can also create special event notifications for your favorite movies or TV shows, a feature called Roku Feed. Let’s say you’re a big Will Ferrell fan, but not so big that you’re willing to fork over movie theater-level bucks to go see Get Hard right now. Simply create an event notification for Get Hard (Roku has a comprehensive list of current box office titles) and the system will notify you automatically every time there is a change to Get Hard‘s status. The first notification will be when it turns up in your Buy It Now or Rent options via Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, or one of the other channels. You can then delete the event or keep it and be informed when it shows up on one of your subscription services, like Netflix (probably your best bet — sorry, Will).
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