Hands On Roku Voice Search

Dave Zatz —  April 5, 2015

The 2015 Roku 3 ships with a new “Enhanced Remote” that includes a new magnifying glass button and microphone to power voice search, à la Amazon Fire TV and even Comcast Xfinity. When the magnifier is pressed, the lower third of the Roku screen indicates the remote is listening for movie, TV show, actor, or director – tying into Roku’s top-notch universal search across disparate video content providers.

In very brief testing, the voice recognition has been accurate – moreso than my Fire TV even. But this may depend on your personal enunciation and search patterns. Speaking of search, the results leave a little to be desired as new release movies featured in Roku Feed are not currently indexed. I’d think these two new services should work together… and perhaps it’s just a matter of time. Regardless, this is a nice-to-have that surely beats “typing” via a virtual keyboard or even iPhone app. And we expect it’ll be a requisite feature given Siri’s presumed inclusion via an Apple TV update. Related, we can imagine Roku making voice search available to more models and customers via update to their iPhone and Android remote control apps. Until then, expect to see this remote also sold as an optional accessory for the 2015 Roku 2 and 2013/2014 Roku 3 models.

8 responses to Hands On Roku Voice Search

  1. “Regardless, this is a nice-to-have that surely beats “typing” via a virtual keyboard or even iPhone app.”

    Likely so. Though it still doesn’t beat TiVo search via kmmtg…

  2. Dammit. The Eater Bunny snuck down our chimney last night and ate all our eggs. Brunch just got confusing.

  3. Does the remote still have instant replay function now that the instant replay button is replace with the voice search button? Does the voice search only work in the menus. Would instant replay still function if you press the voice search button during video playback?

  4. “Does the remote still have instant replay function now that the instant replay button is replace with the voice search button?”

    FWIW, I wouldn’t miss it if it’s gone. Due to the buffering of OTT, I pretty much never use that button, preferring to manually rewind and play instead. (On my TiVo when viewing recorded shows, I couldn’t live without that button, however.)

    Obviously, YMMV.

  5. Mutta, I appreciate trick play despite the buffering when I miss what someone has said. It’s definitely more work with Netflix on Roku than say a DVR-ed show on TiVo, but still worthwhile to me. Sadly, hitting the Search button (where Instant Replay used to live) during Netflix playback unceremoniously dumps you back to your channels/apps and then brings up the search banner – it’s a clunky and slow transition. I haven’t linked the mobile app yet – wonder if Instant Replay is still there… and for how long.

    Other remote observations: The 2015 d-pad uses a different sort of mechanism than what’s in my 2013 remote. It’s less clicky, more spongey I guess. It’s slower to use and feels weird. Do not like.

  6. Not sure why they couldn’t have just added a new button for voice search somewhere else on the remote and keep the instant replay button. This is a bit odd since the new Roku 2 still has it on it’s remote. You would think the Roku 3 should have all the same features as the Roku 2 plus more (addition of voice search). That’s a shame.

    For me the instant replay button still had practical use. I use it constantly for Netflix, Hulu and other streaming channels that properly implemented it. By proper implementation, I mean buffer free and instant playback. I think Hulu and M-Go made the best use of the button. The playback would instantly go back about 7 seconds. During the 7 second rewind, the subtitles would temporary be enabled. That was great, since most of the time I rewind, it was because I couldn’t make out what someone said. Would have been nice if all channels implemented the button this way.

    Then again, there are newer channels that don’t implement it well or at all. The new Youtube channel treats the button as a back button. The Funimation channel replays too far back, about 30 seconds, that it needs to rebuffer for several seconds each time you click the button. There wasn’t any real consistency in which each channel implemented the button, which I guess maybe why they are phasing it out.

  7. I was able to pair the 2015 Roku 3 remote with a 2013 Roku 3. Search button and mic don’t currently do anything (but send you back a screen or out) — I assume that’ll be turned on with the upcoming software update. Also, it sounds like voice search is coming to the mobile app – mine hasn’t updated as of this AM. Will be interesting to see if they retain the instant replay button. With more real estate to work with, I’d hope they’d keep it.

  8. Now we know who powers Roku voice search (and why it’s so good):

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nuances-dragon-tv-enables-voice-search-on-the-new-roku-3-streaming-player-2015-05-26?reflink=MW_news_stmp

    Nuance Communications, Inc. announced that Roku Inc. has integrated Dragon TV voice recognition into the voice search experience on the Roku 3 streaming player and the Roku mobile app for iOS and Android devices