Roku to launch voice-controlled digital assistant

SAN FRANCISCO - Roku (ROKU) is trying to make itself heard in the burgeoning market for digital voice assistants.

The streaming video company announced Wednesday that it plan plans to add a voice-controlled digital assistant to its streaming TV players. Technology giants Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) dominate the segment for so-called smart speakers, which lets people shop online, get information and use other applications by voice.

Roku's voice capabilities are currently limited to performing search requests and launching apps. The assistant will be able to field broader requests about video, music and other tasks tied to entertainment.

"When launched, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable consumers to use voice commands to enjoy entertainment on voice-supported Roku devices," the company said in a news release. "For example, customers will be able to say, 'Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room' and a smart soundbar with Roku Connect will begin playing music – even if the TV is turned off."

Still, that's a much narrower scope than the assistants already available from its bigger rivals in the battle to build digital command centers in people's homes. Google's Assistant, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa can perform tasks and control appliances that have nothing do with entertainment.

Roku could fall even further behind before its assistant reaches home. Although it was announced Wednesday, the assistant won't be released until this fall as part of a software update.

Juniper Research forecasts that smart speakers will be installed in over 70 million U.S. households by 2022, reaching more than half of all homes.