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New Roku 3 Box Gets Voice Search

CORRECTED Apr. 6, 3:16 PM ET.

Gary Busey now has another video streaming box to yell at. Roku today (Apr. 6) introduced a new version of its $100 Roku 3 video streamer that allows you to search content by voice, as an alternative to pecking out search via the keys on its remote, across 17 content channels. With it, Roku catches up to the Amazon Fire TV and several smart TV makers that already offer speech recognition.

The company also upgraded the speed of its $70 Roku 2 box, but didn't add a voice-search enabled remote option to this player or to its popular $50 Roku Streaming Stick or Roku TVs.

In addition, all current Roku boxes get a new feature called Roku Feed that allows them to "follow" material they are interested in. The service is launching with Movies Coming Soon, which provides updates on when movies that hit cinemas in the previous five months will be available for streaming. Roku Feed will also tell you which services, such as Amazon, Netflix or Vudu, have the content, and for what price.

Movies Coming Soon doesn't send popup alerts, so you'll have to periodically navigate to that screen in the Roku interface and look for updates. But when I asked Roku about alerts, they told me the idea was "really good feedback."

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While Roku hasn't changed the model number, only the new Roku 3 models will get the voice search remote-control upgrade, since it requires new hardware - a microphone-equipped remote control. Roku hasn't said if it will sell the new remote separately. However, the updated Roku mobile app for Android and iOS allows voice search for all current Roku players and Roku TVs.. 

By either voice or typing, Roku allows search by movies or TV show title, actor or director. An update now allows you to search for a specific channel, such as Netflix or Hulu — handy, since Roku now offers well over 2,000 channels.

Roku's mobile remote-control app gets an update, too.

Roku's mobile remote-control app gets an update, too.

If you don't care about chatting with your remote, check out the updated version of the Roku 2 box. It now has the same processing power as the Roku 3, allowing it to run faster, and costs $70 — basically matching the new discounted $69 price of the Apple TV. 

Roku gave us an advanced look at the voice search feature - or tried to. Either a buggy Wi-Fi connection or problems on Roku's server kept it from working. We'll test it out soon once we get a player from Roku and will provide an update.

As with many other voice recognition services, Roku's sends your mutterings up to a third-party cloud service for processing (Roku hasn't revealed which service). Roku listens only when you press a button on the remote, and the company told us that it doesn't collect data on user's utterings — beyond using it to improve search results.

This article was corrected to clarify that the Roku app brings voice search to all current players and TVs.

Follow Sean Captain @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • eklipz330
    so if roku 2 has the same speed as roku 3, and also has this new voice feature, what's the difference?
    Reply
  • TNel
    Roku 2 does not have voice search, even the article states that.

    https://www.roku.com/products/compare

    What makes me mad is when Roku takes this horrible naming scheme. It's the same as the old iPod Touch naming and I can't stand it. Each version should have their own name and not have to deal with gen X.
    Reply
  • drapacioli
    No mention that they removed the A/V connection on the new Roku 2? That's new as well for that model, the last one had composite connections. Could be important for people to know...
    Reply
  • drapacioli
    They have also removed the Wi-Fi direct remote with headphone jack from the Roku 2 model, I can see this causing confusion already for consumers that think they're buying the same "Roku 2" that has been around already.
    Reply
  • Adam311835
    Are these new models released yet? I was just on chat with a Roku customer service representative who had no idea about the voice remote or the upgrade to the Roku 2.
    Reply
  • Joed32
    I just ordered one from Roku, coming this week.
    Reply
  • boo radley007
    What the roku needs is a way to bookmark selections within the individual channels and sub channels and save a queue for movies and shows that you find and want to watch later. Being able to pull up specific programs without wading through several levels of menus would enhanced the experience by several orders of magnitude.
    Reply
  • Artmustel
    How do you know, by looking at the box, if it is the updated ROKU 2 or the updated ROKU 3? Do they read anywhere that they are the updated models?
    Reply
  • Adam311835
    15736045 said:
    How do you know, by looking at the box, if it is the updated ROKU 2 or the updated ROKU 3? Do they read anywhere that they are the updated models?

    Amazon lists the NEW Roku as being the Roku 3 4230R, my Roku 3 is the 4200X. So it seems like they are different models, but with VERY similar features. I did notice that the new Roku 3 has a slightly different look than mine. The new one looks like it has a matte finish on top where mine is glossy.

    Reply
  • sandlot1959
    Looks on the Roku site like they are going to sell the voice remotes but its currently showing out of stock.
    Reply