Bark out “Alexa” in the congested halls of CES, and you would have heard a chorus of devices, from cars to smartphones to household appliances, answer back.
OK, so not literally, but Alexa is assuming an increasing role across numerous products, a sure sign Amazon is leaning on its vocal digital assistant to spread its artificial intelligence system everywhere, and certainly go well beyond the popular Echo speaker where Alexa got its start.
Rival Google Assistant wasn’t as prominent at this CES, though hot chipmaker Nvidia aims to expand the artificial intelligence-powered assistant’s reach throughout the home. Also, Google announced integrations with Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, and Rishi Chandra, the vice-president for Google Home, gave a talk on smarter homes.
Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri had a much lower profile at CES as well, but none of these Amazon rivals should be underestimated in the voice-driven AI space, which is still in its relative infancy.
For its part, Amazon announced more than 35 new partners this week, some that embed cloud-based Alexa smarts directly into their own products, and are completely independent of Amazon’s own Echo, Echo Dot, or Fire TV with Alexa. And some that still require Echo’s and Echo Dots, adding to the more than 7,000 “skills” that Alexa is capable of.
Around the massive trade show you found Alexa as the voice behind the humanoid Lynx robot that UBTECH Robotics has just introduced. And Alexa is a new voice inside Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system.
The Mate 9 phablet from China’s Huawei that came out in the U.S. Friday becomes the first smartphone in the world to have Alexa preinstalled, pitting it against Siri in the iPhone, and the Google Assistant in Android devices.
Another Chinese company, Lenovo, is bringing out the Lenovo Smart Assistant, essentially Lenovo’s own version of an independent Echo-like speaker. It will cost $129.99 when it arrives in May, or $50 more for a model with premium Harman Kardon audio.
Alexa Voice Services will also be embedded into the yet-to-be priced LG Smart InstaView refrigerator. You might say “Alexa, we need ice” and the fridge will turn on the ice maker. Or you might use your voice to have Alexa search recipes or play music—InstaView is a Bluetooth speaker too.
Needless to say, Amazon will presumably be all too pleased to have you restock the LG fridge by ordering groceries right there via Alexa and Amazon Prime.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Edward C. Baig