More than puppets
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.