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Voice interfaces were prominent at this year's CES in Las Vegas

As usual, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw a bewildering array of smart gadgets and devices vying for the attention of consumers. But while not every new product launched at the show will succeed – and there were more than 20,000 – it was certainly possible to identify some key trends.

One overarching trend was the rise of voice enabled devices, which appeared to be everywhere. Many technologists now see voice as the next major evolution in computing, with a potential impact similar to that of touch technology more than 10 years ago.

Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, among others, dominated the news from Las Vegas, where there was a huge range of gadgets using voice on display.

Google, Amazon and Microsoft appear not only to be competing directly with their voice technologies, but are also looking to ensure that their assistant platforms become deeply embedded across all consumer electronics as they look to maintain and deepen consumer engagement with voice. Meanwhile, Apple seems to have lost ground.

Both Amazon and Google have certainly recognised the need to integrate their technology and improve time to market through greater collaboration and partnerships with third parties, as well as through open platforms.

Alongside voice, artificial intelligence (AI) also took centre-stage and was deployed in many different products.

It will certainly have a far-reaching impact on people’s lives, whether that’s at home, in terms of transportation or just walking down the street. However, when it comes to AI, how much is simply smart software and how much is true AI?

The term ‘AI’ was certainly over-used, with rather too many companies using it as a blanket marketing tool in order to gain attention – and that’s not really surprising when you walk around CES and see how crowded the marketplace is.

While Samsung’s keynote address devoted much of its time to AI, the consumer electronics giant acknowledged that truly smart, connected devices are still many years away.

A suitable metaphor for much of the technology on show this year was LG’s disastrous demonstration of Cloi, its home-helping robot. The company’s vice president of marketing engaged in a one-way conversation as he desperately tried to elicit a response from the device, highlighting the fact that much of the technology on show isn’t quite ready for ‘primetime’.

Neil Tyler

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