Users with a Roku streaming stick or set-top box and an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device can rejoice as the platforms have linked up to add more voice control options to Roku’s service.
So far the service isn’t available in the Canadian Alexa Skills store. A Roku representative also told MobileSyrup that there are no details regarding it coming to Canada yet.
This is the second voice assistant partnership that Roku has forged. Back in September 2018, the company added the ability for users to control their devices with Google Assistant.
If you create a U.S. Amazon account with a random U.S. address and then set your Echo/Alexa voice to U.S. English, you should be able to access the American Alexa Skills store. You can then change your Amazon Account region here.
Take note though, when you change over your Amazon account you’ll see prices on Amazon in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. It may be worth it to make a second dummy account just for accessing U.S. specific tech features. This also might break other features like ordering straight from your Alexa device.
I ported over my regular Amazon.ca account, and I had to sign out and then re-sign into the Alexa app to make the U.S. Skills appear on the mobile Skills store.
You might also need to create a PayPal account since its easier to link that to a U.S. account given you don’t need to add a billing address when you connect them.
Along with making a U.S. Amazon account you also need to create a U.S. Roku account and link your Roku device to it. From there you should be able to enable the Roku Alexa Skill.
In my tests, Alexa is pretty finicky when it comes to what parts of Roku’s platform it can control. While Roku has a few suggested phrases and actions on its support page not all of them worked for me. (You need to be on the U.S. version of the Roku site to see the page.)
Alexa can turn Roku TVs on and off, move the volume up and down a few notches, switch inputs and control playback in Spotify, YouTube, Prime Video and the Roku Channel. When you’re watching something and you ask your digital assistant to control playback it mutes itself so it doesn’t interrupt what you’re watching, but it still does what you ask.
The digital assistant may be able to control other apps that I didn’t test it with, but it definitely doesn’t work with Netflix.
It won’t launch any apps or set the volume to a specific number, but it’s still fun to walk into a room and say “Alexa turn on Roku,” and then my TV comes to life. If you have a Roku streaming device and not a Roku TV, then most of these hardware controls like switching inputs and turning the TV on won’t work.
Alexa will also take you back to the Roku Home Menu, which is something I struggled to get working with Google Assistant.
Google Assistant setup
Canadians can also use Google Assistant to control their Roku TVs and streaming devices, but they may need to set their Google Assistant language to ‘U.S English.’
You can change this setting by navigating to the ‘Account’ section of the Home app and then tapping on ‘Settings.’ Next, choose the ‘Assistant’ tab followed by ‘Languages.’ Once that’s done, tap the ‘Add’ button at the top of the Google Home app, then choose ‘Set up device.’ The next step is to select ‘Have something already set up?’ then search for Roku.
You’ll be prompted to link your Roku account, and then you should be good to go. For reference, I was able to connect my Canadian Roku account to my Google Home app.
My Google Home app says that my Google Home language is U.S. English and my Country code is CA (Canada).
When you’re using one of these voice control methods, you need to specify that you want to control your Roku. Something like “Alexa, fast forward on Roku” or “Hey Google, turn on Roku” (this only works for Roku TVs).
For a list of more commands, you can visit Roku’s site, but you’ll need to make sure your page is set to the U.S. English in the bottom right corner for it to appear.
The last note is that to use a voice assistant to turn on your Roku TV you need to enable ‘Fast TV Start.’ This setting is in the ‘System’ section of the television’s settings under the sub-heading ‘Power.’
During my testing, Google Assistant seems to control a few more things than Alexa. It launches the Roku Channel and YouTube, but I couldn’t get any other apps to open with my voice.
On top of that, it can control playback in Spotify, Prime Video, YouTube and the Roku Channel there may be more apps that work with it too, but Netflix is not one of them.
You can also ask Google Assistant to “Show me dramas on Roku,” and it will use the platform’s system search function to show you dramatic movies and TV shows.
You can control the TV’s hardware with Google Assistant too. Switching HDMI ports, controlling the volume and turning the TV on and off. Similarly to Roku, you can’t ask Google Assistant to “set the volume to 50,” instead you have to say, “Ok Google, turn up Roku” and it goes up a few decibels
All in all these voice controls are pretty cool, but if you only own a Roku streaming device instead of a Roku TV the number of voice controls that will work for you will be limited, since most of the commands that worked for me control the TV’s hardware.