At Las Vegas in 2017, the biggest presence was by a company that didn’t even have a booth – Amazon and its AI assistant Alexa. This year, one of the biggest booths belonged to Google, whose installation, dedicated to showing off its own intelligent Google Assistant, was so big it was located outside the convention centre in a breakout space.
Google Assistant was everywhere, from the billboards on the Las Vegas Strip to the Google Assistant ambassadors, who were clad in white jumpsuits and could be found at stalls ranging from smart light manufacturer Xiaomi to kitchen appliance company Gourmia.
Both Alexa and Google Assistant were omnipresent, with many companies showing off their voice-enabled wares. Most brands were assistant-agnostic. Kohler, which was displaying its range of smart bathroom products launched Vedera, a smart mirror that has Amazon Alexa as well as speakers integrated. The brand says users could be shaving and tell Alexa to turn on music, or ask the assistant to turn on Kohler’s connected smart showerhead. But Shane Allis, director of marketing at Kohler, was quick to point out that it will soon be equipped with Google Assistant as well.
Chinese telecoms brand Baidu showed its smart speaker H, a device with a difference. Unlike Amazon Echo or Google Home, H is modular. Composed of colourful blocks, the top block – the brain of the device that is powered by Baidu’s AI DuerOS – is removable and can be carried through the house, so that users can take their assistant with them.
Alongside Alexa, Google Assistant and DuerOS, Samsung showed off the capabilities of its assistant Bixby – which made even more stark the lack of presence of Apple and Siri. Whether Apple will find its way to CES in 2019 remains to be seen, but what is clear is that ‘voice as interface’ is here to stay.