Interacting with facial-recognition software


Front and center at CES was the battle between virtual assistants — namely Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Google erected an enormous outdoor booth to show off the multitude of devices that now work with Assistant, including smart watches, speakers and displays. The company said a billion devices now work with its assistant, up from 400 million last year. Google wants to make the Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life: in the home, in the car and on mobile devices.

“When I walk down the aisle at Home Depot, will all the devices I might buy work with the Assistant?” Nick Fox, a Google executive who oversees Assistant, said of items like smoke detectors and thermostats. “The answer is yes.”

Amazon also had a large presence at the show. It filled a large conference room at the Venetian hotel with dozens of products that work with Alexa, including an Audi car, a motorcycle helmet and a stereo system.

The battle among virtual assistants is shaping up to be very different from past platform wars between tech companies because consumers will have more choices. Many of the smart gadgets at CES worked with multiple virtual assistants.

Aaron Emigh, chief executive of Brilliant, which makes smart home products that work with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, said it was critical for virtual assistants to work together, not against one another, because the smart home was already too complex, with products like light switches, thermostats and cameras coming from different brands.

“The more technology and the more different vendors that get put in your home, the more important that it all works together,” he said.

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