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Roku updates set-tops & mobile apps with features like voice search, Roku Feed

Apple TV competitor Roku today updated its streaming media set-tops and companion mobile apps with new voice search functions, access to a content discovery system dubbed "Roku Feed," and faster hardware in the case of the Roku 2.

The company's flagship set-top, the $100 Roku 3, now includes a remote with a button-activated microphone that lets users search for video by title, actor, or director. The function works from anywhere within the Roku firmware, and when launched will present a range of subscribed services from which finds can be seen.

In its early incarnation, the Roku Feed lets users mark titles not yet on streaming services in order to get notifications when they become available. Like the company's other search options, notifications will show which services have a title and for what price.

Roku says it plans to expand Feed functions in the future. In the meantime, it is also upgrading the Channel Store with the ability to search for a channel by name.

Roku Feed and the new search options are being pushed out as a software update for current-generation Roku set-tops and TVs beginning today, finishing by the end of the month. The company's iOS and Android apps have likewise been updated, though the iOS release is only due to go live sometime later this week. The apps can be used to control a Roku device or push local media to one.

A new model of the Roku 2 has been released to match the performance of the Roku 3. It costs $70, and omits only the Roku 3's new remote.

Apple is rumored to be following in the footsteps of Roku and Amazon by simialrly adding voice search to a future Apple TV. The product could premiere at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and ship sometime this fall alongside a new subscription streaming service.

The hardware will allegedly sport an A8 processor, more storage, and access to an App Store, but not 4K video.