Roku OS 11 update promises greater dialogue clarity through AI

Mike Wheatley

Roku is trying to improve the experience for movie lovers with a new firmware update that will boost the volume of dialogue in films.


The new capability is arriving with the latest Roku OS 11 firmware update. The company explained that it has added a new speech recognition feature to all of its best streaming dongles. Assuming the feature works as Roku says it does, it will enable spoken dialogue to stand out more against other sounds, without the need to ramp up the volume. So the promise is that no more dialogue being drowned out by music, explosive sound effects and such.

It sounds like a useful new feature, as film’s audio mixes sometimes under-compensate for dialogue when adding a variety of other sounds. Roku says the upgrade will enable a more cinema-like experience for most users, while for those with hearing problems it will no doubt also be welcome.

Roku explained that the new capability is similar to the active hybrid noise cancellation feature found in some high-end headphones and earbuds.

It relies on artificial intelligence software that identifies spoken dialogue and isolates this audio from the other sounds. Doing this, it’s able to boost the volume of the dialogue only, independently from the other noises that are going on. That should ensure much greater clarity.

The feature promises to be super-useful, bringing desperately needed clarity to dialogue that takes place amid the sounds of speeding cars and explosions in action movies, for instance.

It may also make the more intricate dialogue of tense thrillers and mystery movies easier to follow. If so, viewers who love to hang on every single word characters say will surely appreciate not missing anything. Who knows, it could even negate the obsession that many viewers have of always using subtitles in addition to the audio.

In addition to the increased audio clarity, Roku is adding a number of audio modes for specific genres such as movies, music, speeches and more, which promise to work very well with the new feature.

While some TVs made by the likes of TCL and Amazon have already added voice recognition smarts to their TVs, Roku’s application of the technology appears to be the first time anyone has tried adding this specifically to a streaming stick.