Streaming video giant Roku said today that it will start rolling out a new system OS v. 9.3 to Roku devices in the coming weeks bringing more seamless integration with its soundbar and further integration with AI voice integration.

The new version of the OS will be automatically pushed out to Roku streaming media players inluding the Roku Smart Soundbar free of charge in the coming weeks. Roku TV models are expected to receive the update in phases in the coming months.

New features in the OS are aimed at bringing consumers the ability to get to content quickly via Roku Voice enhancements to both improve overall performance and bring users greater customization options, Roku said.

“The Roku OS continues to get better with a specific focus on delivering strong performance, especially on older devices, new and more ways to find content, and unique features to our customers,” stated Ilya Asnis, Roku OS senior VP. “With Roku OS 9.3, we’re adding new functionality to Roku Voice in multiple regions around the globe with the primary goal of delighting our users in their day-to-day use of our devices. We’ve designed Roku Voice to enable consumers to get to the content they want quickly, allow them to browse in new ways and control their experience with a laser focus on entertainment.”

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The new audio enhancements for integrated Roku TVs and Roku Soundbars covered in v 9.3 for the U.S. include:

• Access to more soundbar settings directly from the TV interface, eliminating the need to switch back and forth between menus or use multiple remotes; enabling Roku TV Ready features
• Pairing a mobile device or tablet to the Roku Soundbar using the Roku TV Settings Menu for audio playback via Bluetooth or pair other Roku audio products to the soundbar, such as the Roku Wireless Subwoofer and Roku TV Wireless Speakers for full surround sound.

Among the new features coming to Roku devices in the OS version 9.3 features are the following:

• Spanish Language Roku Voice Support (in Mexico & the U.S.) – Users can speak commands in Spanish to launch channels, search for titles, actors, or genres, as well as control media playback on their Roku device.
• Visual Search Results (U.S.) – Roku Voice search results will now be presented in a more visual, easy to browse display with categorized rows including relevant movies, shows, short-form entertainment and more for quick discovery of entertainment. Search results are unbiased and selected content will offer a list of channels featuring that title, sorted by price.
• Support for News Related Commands (U.S.) – “Show me the news” will now direct a user to a Roku Zone filled with available news channels. “Play the news” will launch a live stream of ABC News within The Roku Channel. “Play the news on …,” will launch the named news channel and remember that preference for future commands.
• Playback from Search (U.S.) – 50+ streaming channels now support direct playback from search when using Roku Voice by directly playing the show or movie when possible, rather than displaying search results.
• Roku Mobile App – The free app is expected to feature a new navigation bar at the top of the mobile screen when users are connected to a Roku device providing access to Roku Search, a new icon that displays a dropdown menu of devices designed for users to easily switch between the Roku devices they want to control with their mobile app, and a shortcut to the remote screen. The redesign includes quick access icons so users can launch useful mobile app features without the need to exit the remote screen including the ability to browse and/or launch their recently viewed channels directly from the remote screen and more.

Other updates coming in OS v 9.3 include:

• Customization – Home Screen wallpapers, as well as screensavers, are now accessible from a single “Theme” menu item located within Settings. Theme packs, which consist of a wallpaper and screensaver, are a new way for users in the U.S. to customize their experience for a consistent look and feel when using their Roku devices.
• Performance – A reduction in device boot times, faster launch times for a select number of channels (with more supported channels coming soon), a more responsive Home Screen and faster navigation when using features such as Featured Free.

Roku also announced new voice features for international markets including the following:

• Spanish Language Roku Voice (Mexico) – Roku Voice allows users to quickly find their favorite entertainment by searching for titles, actors, or genres, as well as control media playback on their Roku device, launch channels and more via a Roku Voice Remote or the free Roku mobile app.
• Roku Voice (Canada, Ireland and the UK) – Roku Voice gives users a greater variety of supported voice commands including new ways to find entertainment such as searching by a selection of popular movie quotes, and the ability to speak more natural phrases like “Show me …” or “I want to watch …” when speaking voice commands, plus, media playback controls such as “Fast forward” or “Pause” and device control such as “Turn on closed captions.”
• Works with Alexa and Works with Google Assistant (Canada, Mexico and the UK) – Control Roku players and Roku TVs by speaking commands to Alexa-enabled and/or Google Assistant-enabled devices.

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By Greg Tarr

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