Roku has announced the next version of its operating system for TVs and set-top boxes, and it adds a number of useful new features.
One of the more exciting parts of this software launch is Roku OS 11’s new Photo Streams. This feature allows you to create a personal screensaver using your photos uploaded directly to your Roku device. You can do this using your computer or smartphone.
Photo streams may sound like a minor thing, but this officially makes any Roku-enabled monitor the same type of image-sharing platform as Google TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV-connected devices. Roku OS 11 allows you to invite friends and family members to contribute to Streams and share your albums with other users so they appear on their respective devices.
Previously, Rokus’ interface focused on providing the basics: a menu where you could select the app with the content you wanted to enjoy. But as TVs get higher resolutions from the minute, every sleeping screen is now an option to put a makeshift digital photo album in your home or even a makeshift art installation.
Roku OS 11 has a few other notable new features. The main screen now focuses on finding something to watch with What to Watch on Roku. Like Google TV and Apple TV, this particular home screen will offer personalized suggestions for what you can watch, based on popular and trending content and any new titles added to streaming services.
There is also a Live TV on the Roku Home Menu, an extension of Live TV Zone Roku introduced a few months ago. Roku Channel will offer free live content and links to existing cable alternatives, such as Hulu and YouTube TV.
On Roku audio products, the OS 11 update adds automatic voice clarity settings to help enhance the dialogue on quieter movies and shows. Some soundbars and third-party accessories easily offer this capability, and it’s nice to see Roku integrate it into the software.
Roku Streambars and speakers will offer five new sound modes, including Standard, Dialog, Movie, Music and Night, which will hopefully help with the late night binge marathons when everyone else in the house is asleep. The new OS will also extend its A / V synchronization support by adding a calibration tool through the Roku Mobile app. This will help you better synchronize audio with the action on the screen. The feature will be available if you have a Roku player or Streambar connected to the app.
Speaking of the Roku mobile app, it also gets an update. The free app will offer a better companion experience on your smartphone. You can see information about where you can stream movies and TV shows, and which channels stream content for free or require a subscription. And just like Google TV’s Watch List, there’s now a Roku Save List that lets you bookmark movies and TV shows you want to watch.
Finally, and perhaps most exciting for people who can not stand to enter their login information letter by letter, OS 11 will introduce the ability to access your account with an email and PIN using only your vote. OS 11 also supports Spanish, German and Portuguese spoken languages.
The streaming wars have been heating up in recent months, and it’s clear that Roku is moving fast to get its software feature set up on par with what everyone else is doing. As I mentioned, many of the new features of Roku OS 11 can be found in competing streaming operating systems. Buying a smart TV, streaming dongle or set-top box is another way to add to your home’s connected ecosystem. With Apple, Google and Amazon expanding their reach to include devices of all kinds, Roku can at least make the same capabilities available without making consumers feel locked into a particular subset of devices and services .
The company will begin rolling out Roku OS 11 to its devices in the coming weeks, including supported Roku streaming playersTV models and peripherals, like its streaming soundbars.