With CES 2017 going strong this week, we're taking a look at some of the tech trends that are evident at the show so far. There are lots of things going on at CES, but these are some of the big, overriding trends that look to have the ability to impact the market, both now and in the future.
Part 1: Self-driving cars and the tech that drives them (no pun intended)
Part 2: The increasingly wacky world of connected "smart" devices
(Note: Much love to the great people at The Verge for the incredible reporting at CES this week. We've linked to many of their articles here and suggest you check out their great site on your own, too.)
Trend #3 - AI Assistants (especially Amazon’s)
AI assistants are nothing new - every iPhone user has carried Siri around in their pockets for years now - but they are definitely on the upswing as tech companies race to establish dominance in the voice-controlled assistant space.
Google’s apparently very capable new Assistant made its debut with the Google Pixel phone last year and now it’s starting to show up in other devices like Android TV and Nvidia’s newly announced Shield TV. They’re even opening up developer access to the Google Home device that will allow third parties to interact through the neat little voice controlled smart home device.
But the big story of CES is Amazon’s Alexa assistant. First showing up in Amazon’s own Echo smart home product a while back, Alexa has shown up so many times in my news feed over the past couple of days I started being more surprised when a press release DIDN’T mention Alexa integration of some sort. Amazon has made it easy for developers to integrate the Alexa assistant and service into their devices and developers are definitely taking Amazon up on the offer. It’s a pretty sweet deal for developers - all they have to add is a mic, a speaker, and a little circuitry to their connected devices and Amazon’s back-end servers handle all of the heavy lifting. Then, voila, you’ve got yourself an even smarter thing you were already developing.
And develop they are. Already this week we’ve seen Alexa get built into new TVs (from the Chinese conglomerate that makes Westinghouse/Element/Seiki televisions), refrigerators (LG), robots (LG again), direct Echo competitors (Lenovo), lamps (GE), and home assistants aimed at children / infants (Mattel). That’s in addition to the integrations with Alexa - products that can be controlled by voice commands given to an Echo, Echo Dot, or any of the other devices with Alexa built in. Whirlpool has an entire line of home appliances that can be controlled by Alexa, Dish’s Hopper DVR now has Alexa voice control, and Samsung is adding it to their robot vacuum cleaner. Even routers and security systems are getting into the game (from Linksys and ADT, respectively). Ford is even integrating Alexa into its cars.
Amazon is obvously serious about making Alexa a serious player in the AI Assistant space, and, given how developer friendly they're being they're making good headway. I can't imagine that Google is not paying close attention to the number of newly Alexa-enabled devices coming out, so I wouldn't at all be surprised to see a more concerted push to work with developers in order to expand Assistant's reach. Microsoft even made news this week with the announcement that Nissan and BMW would be bringing the Cortana assistant to some of their cars.
So what's missing here? Despite being on every iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac out there, Apple's Siri doesn't exactly play well with others and Apple doesn't seem inclined to open up Siri's sandbox. It will be interesting to see if Apple decides to open Siri up to more developer integration, but given their past history I wouldn't hold my breath.
Amazon Alexa Assistant News:
Google Assistant News: