Roku Transformed Its Search

Roku has begun to integrate some interesting new features into its universal search. It is making the whole thing more visual and adding interactive predictive text headings. Since the search debuted with the Roku 3, users have been able to look for content based on titles, actors and directors. And as it has grown in scope users have been able to find content from nearly every service on Roku.

But the new integrations bring features that help people zero in on what they’re looking for even quicker. And by providing both visual choices and text choices it can help users who think they know what they are looking for but actually don’t. What do I mean? Take the actor Tommy Lee Jones. What if someone just always calls him Tom Jones by mistake no matter how many times they are corrected. Using the Roku search now, when a person types Tom immediately a row of Hollywood Toms pops up starting with Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tom Selleck and other Toms including Tommy Lee Jones. You may think this sounds like a silly example unless you know one of those people who says Pepsi when they mean Coke or Dominos when they mean Pizza Hut. So now, no matter what someone thinks a person’s name is they will see a picture and say there he is, ohhh. If you search for Tommy Lee you see suggestions for Tommy Lee Jones, Tommy Lee (of rock music fame), and film producer Tommy Lee Wallace.

Visual and text searches work together

Expanding on the Tom example, Roku also pops out a row of TV and movies with the word Tom. Immediately we see Tom and Jerry, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and a predictive text queue pulls up the western Tombstone as well. As you zero in on your choice Roku then generates content rows based on your selection. So as we move from Tom to Tom Hanks the system begins displaying movies and TV shows, titles on subscription services, free movies etc. It also presents a row of related actors and directors that links with their own filmographies.

If you are more of a textual learner Roku generates choices at the top of the screen based on what you’re typing into the search area. This can help a user get to what they’re looking for quicker or even find new content they were not thinking of. The headings will lead to new content screens akin to Roku’s zones. In general, it is pretty intuitive.

I typed in View and was presented with a heading “+askewniverse movies” that leads me to a collection from Kevin Smith, writer/director of Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike back etc. On the visual selection TV and Movies presented me with the talk show “The View”, a movie “View from the Top”, “A View To A Kill 007” along with the Roku zone suggestion for 007. A row of channels included View Local, Photo View, and View Star Television among ten choices. As per Roku’s agreement with Google, there is also a list of YouTube Clips from The View.

Before a search even takes place when a user jumps into the search menu Roku tries to point you towards rows of popular movies, Popular TV Shows, Free content, kids content and content via subscriptions. This feels a lot like the Roku channel being integrated into the search itself. I have seen the same kind of thing in the Disney+ app. Disney gives users the search option along with a large selection of hubs built around its content. I would expect other streaming services and platforms to start doing a lot more of this. I’m only surprised that Roku does not have more of its original content front and center.

Can you use the old search?

I explored the settings but was not able to uncover an option to do so. Now this does not mean that it isn’t there somewhere, but I can’t tell you where it is right now if it does in fact exist.