More than pup­pets

The Star Early Edition - - DIGITAL ECONOMY -

HAN­SON Ro­bot­ics’ Al­bert Ein­stein HUBO hu­man­like robots speak dur­ing the 2017 Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show this month. Ho­tel hall­ways were packed with vir­tual as­sis­tants be­ing shouted at by at­ten­dees – as­sis­tants that then replied in their ro­botic voices and got to do­ing what­ever it was they’d been asked. Those as­sis­tants aren’t new. They first made their way into the pub­lic con­scious­ness with Siri in the iPhone 4S. Ev­ery ma­jor tech com­pany has re­leased its own ver­sion since: Ama­zon’s Alexa, Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana and Google’s un­named As­sis­tant. But what was new is the ar­rival of voice con­trol ev­ery­where – not just as an ex­tra fea­ture of an ex­ist­ing prod­uct, but as some­thing added to ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing you own. And that voice con­trol mostly meant Ama­zon’s Alexa. For the mo­ment, Alexa is also mostly trapped in­side of Ama­zon’s smart speak­ers: the Echo, pri­mar­ily, and also the Echo Dot and Tap. But be­cause she re­ally lives in the cloud.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

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