Every January, the biggest, brightest and most innovative tech companies come together to show off their latest ground-breaking products at CES: the Consumer Electronics Show. Taking place in Las Vegas, this one-of-a-kind event gives a global platform to industry giants and plucky up-and-coming businesses alike, showcasing the next big things in tech. And this year, voice assistants were once again the big talking point.
CES began in 1967, and over the years it’s announced thousands of products that have gone on to become household items, like CD players, HD TVs, tablets and 3D printers. This year alone saw over 182,000 people attend, 4,400 companies exhibit and 1,000 speakers take to the stage, covering markets including VR, home cinemas, baby tech, fitness and drones. But it’s not just an opportunity to show off what your business has achieved, but also to see what competitors are up to. Global giants Amazon and Google were the big draws this year, as their voice assistant technologies battled for supremacy.
Voice assistants have made their way into our homes over the past couple of years, playing owners’ favourite songs, ordering groceries and updating people on the latest news and weather. But their capabilities are stretching much further than simple requests, and their innovation is coming in the form of partnered products. The single chip of Amazon’s Alexa Connect Kit makes it easier to integrate into products, and one of those on display at CES was from ShadeCraft – which allows garden parasols to be controlled by voice and play music from integrated speakers. Another product was the Cybic Legend, which uses Alexa to improve the safety and convenience of its bicycle riders, as well as tracking fitness metrics and other travel data. Amazon’s voice was also being used in more unusual ways at CES… such as the Alexa integrated toilet, which whiles away the boredom of the bathroom by answering any question you may have.
On the other side of the line was Google and their voice assistant. Released after Alexa, Google is lagging behind in the market. But they’re looking to stake their claim with their own version of Alexa’s connective technology – the Google Assistant Connect – which allows for third party integration, as well as incorporation into their own products. You’ll find it in Samsung TVs, Philips Hue lights, and soon in Sonos speakers. But the most exciting development is probably its Interpreter Mode for the Google Home Hub, allowing auto translation. It’s being piloted at hotel desks and is set to transform the check-in experience.
It seems companies are getting fully behind voice assistants, integrating them in places you’d expect, and others you wouldn’t. Whether we’ll be activating everything by voice in our homes and workplaces in the future is yet to be seen, but at this year’s CES, it certainly seems to be the industry’s aim. It’s clear consumers want to talk – so businesses need to make sure they’re ready to listen.