For the last five decades, the Consumer Electronics Show has been showcasing the latest and greatest in technology and innovation. Over the last few years, CES has settled into a rhythm of starting off early in the New Year and hosting the event in Las Vegas; it has also become the most important expo of technological trends that will shape our lives in the near future. One of the greatest highlights of CES 2017 was its focus on artificial intelligence (AI), which has developed into a technology that is ready to be welcomed into our households. One company that stole the show with its AI offerings was Amazon and its Alexa virtual assistant, which can currently be experienced through its affordable smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo.
What Amazon proved at CES 2017 is that Alexa is an adequate user interface for smart home automation devices such as lighting, security systems, refrigerators, media centers, electronic locks, and others. The Amazon Echo works with voice recognition for input, and the Alexa assistant is powered by AI algorithms that improve with machine learning technology. Amazon Echo users who tell Alexa to turn on the kitchen and living room lights at 6:00 pm will one day be prompted by a question such as “Would you like me to turn on the lights at the same time every day?” Alexa can also look at email messages; if she sees a confirmation of an upcoming dental appointment, she will issue a verbal notification as a reminder. Alexa will only get smarter as her learning is not limited by the devices she is installed on; she learns in the cloud so that users do not have to worry about updating the application or upgrading their devices.
Google Home is Alexa’s main competitor, and it is actually smarter at this time. Microsoft intends to develop Cortana, the Windows 10 virtual assistant, so that she can control smart home devices without the need of a dedicated smart speaker. The Amazon Echo costs less than $200 while Google Home goes for less than $130. The upcoming Windows Home system will be free for Windows 10 users. AI was not limited to smart home applications at CES 2017. Virtual assistants are coming to cars, smartphones, tablets, and even toothbrushes. The AI potential applications are endless; IBM Watson, the most advanced AI at CES 2017, showed how he can be useful to food truck operators by informing them of traffic patterns, real-time inventory, best-selling snacks, weather conditions, and most profitable sections of a city.