CES 2019: GOOGLE BRINGS A DIS­NEY-LIKE RIDE TO TECH SHOW

Techlife News - - SUMMARY -

The CES 2019 gad­get show opened its doors Tues­day, with tech com­pa­nies from gi­ants to tiny star­tups show­ing off their lat­est prod­ucts and ser­vices.

In re­cent years, CES’s in­flu­ence has de­clined as Ap­ple, Google and other ma­jor com­pa­nies throw their own events to launch new wares. Still, more than 180,000 peo­ple from about 150 coun­tries are ex­pected to at­tend. The sprawl­ing event spans 11 of­fi­cial venues, plus scores of un­of­fi­cial ones through­out Las Ve­gas. The four­day show in Las Ve­gas opened after two days of me­dia pre­views.

Here are the lat­est find­ings and ob­ser­va­tions from Me­di­are­porters on the ground.

CUT­TING THROUGH THE BABEL

Google has trans­formed CES into a Dis­ney­like theme park — com­plete with singing an­i­ma­tronic mac­arons — to show­case new fea­tures of its voice-en­abled dig­i­tal as­sis­tant.

This in­cludes an “in­ter­preter mode” that en­ables some of Google’s smart home de­vices to work as a trans­la­tor. It’s be­ing pi­loted at a ho­tel concierge desk near the Las Ve­gas tech con­fer­ence and rolls out to con­sumer de­vices in sev­eral weeks.

Voice as­sis­tants are get­ting pretty good at trans­lat­ing speech into text, but it’s a thornier chal­lenge in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to en­able real-time trans­la­tion across dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Google’s new fea­ture expands upon real-time trans­la­tion ser­vices it’s rolled out to An­droid phones and head­phones over the past year.

This is the se­cond year that Google As­sis­tant had made a huge splash at CES in an ef­fort to out­bid Ama­zon’s Alexa as the voice as­sis­tant of choice.

Google this year has an amuse­ment park ride that re­sem­bles Dis­ney’s “It’s a Small World,” though on a roller-coaster-like train at slow speeds. Talk­ing and singing char­ac­ters show­case Google’s var­i­ous voice-as­sis­tant fea­tures as vis­i­tors ride along.

Google isn’t the only CES ex­hibitor promis­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of in­stant trans­la­tion. Chi­nese AI firm iF­lytek has been show­ing of its trans­la­tion apps and de­vices that are al­ready pop­u­lar among Chi­nese trav­el­ers. And at least two star­tups, New York-based Waverly Labs and China-based TimeKet­tle, are pro­mot­ing their ear­buds that work as in-ear trans­la­tion de­vices.

BRING THAT UM­BRELLA

IBM is ex­pand­ing its side job as the world’s me­te­o­rol­o­gist.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty used a key­note ad­dress Tues­day to un­veil a new global fore­cast­ing sys­tem that prom­ises more ac­cu­rate lo­cal weather re­ports in places that never had them be­fore.

The com­put­ing gi­ant owns The Weather Com­pany, which runs pop­u­lar weather ser­vices in­clud­ing weather.com and the Weather Chan­nel and Weather Un­der­ground apps (though not the Weather Chan­nel tele­vi­sion net­work). Those apps pro­vide pre­cise and con­stantly up­dat­ing fore­casts in places like the U.S. and parts of Europe and Ja­pan, but not in most of the world.

IBM says its new fore­cast­ing model re­lies in part on “crowd-sourced” data — baro­met­ric pres­sure read­ings from mil­lions of smart­phones and sen­sor read­ings from pass­ing air­planes.

Weather Com­pany CEO Cameron Clay­ton says the new sys­tem is in­tended to aid IBM’s busi­ness pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal weather data to air­lines, en­ergy firms and other in­dus­tries. But he says it will also have so­ci­etal ben­e­fits, such as help­ing small farm­ers in In­dia or parts of Africa yield bet­ter crops.

IBM may have trou­ble per­suad­ing some users to agree to trans­mit at­mo­spheric data to IBM after the city of Los An­ge­les sued last week to stop the Weather Chan­nel’s data-col­lec­tion prac­tices. The law­suit al­leges that the com­pany uses lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion not just to per­son­al­ize weather but also to track users’ ev­ery step and profit off that in­for­ma­tion. The com­pany has de­nied any im­pro­pri­ety with shar­ing lo­ca­tion data col­lected from users, say­ing it does dis­close what it does.

SAMSUNG WANTS TO BRING RO­BOTS HOME

Up next for Samsung: a ro­bot that can keep its eye on grandma and grandpa.

The rolling ro­bot, which talks and has two dig­i­tal eyes on a black screen, can track medicines they take, mea­sure blood pres­sure and call 911 if it de­tects a fall.

The com­pany didn’t not say when Samsung Bot Care would be avail­able, but brought the ro­bot out on stage Mon­day at a pre­sen­ta­tion at CES. Samsung also said it is work­ing on a ro­bot for stores and an­other for test­ing and pu­ri­fy­ing the air in homes.

Samsung also un­veiled TVs, ap­pli­ances and other high-tech giz­mos — but not a fold­able phone it hinted at in Novem­ber. But a startup called Roy­ole did. The Roy­ole Fl­ex­Pai smart­phone was first shown in Novem­ber but the Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany has more de­tails. The phone will have a 7.8-inch dis­play that can be folded like a wal­let, priced at more than $1,300.

STAR DE­LIGHT

Sony brought some star power to CES with a visit from mu­si­cian Phar­rell Wil­liams, straight from trip to An­guilla.

The star of hit songs such as “Happy” came to talk about a mostly se­cret project that he and Sony are sup­pos­edly un­der­tak­ing. But in the end, it was clearly an at­tempt by Sony to sprin­kle some star­dust on launches for TVs and other prod­ucts.

“I was a lit­tle bit wor­ried that he was still on hol­i­day, but he is here,” Sony Mu­sic head Rob Stringer told the crowd.

Im­age: Steve Mar­cus

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