Some question if digital assistants will ever live up to the hype
Voice-activated digital assistants are again in the spotlight at CES as manufacturers work to embed artificial intelligence technology into everything from refrigerators to slow cookers, beds and toilets. The jury is still out, however, on whether they’ll become key to connecting smart homes.
David Pierce, personal tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal, noted that many other software-related tools already connect a variety of home devices. He harped on the complicated programming involved in pairing devices, including the multiple steps required and the need to memorize specific phrases.
“I don’t want a thousand commands for a thousand devices,” Mr. Pierce wrote. “In most cases, voice-controlled assistants have hit a wall where they perform a specific set of tasks well and not much else.”
He predicted virtual assistants are still “far away” from fulfilling their promise of anticipating individual needs. The wide range of competing smart assistants — including Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant, Siri (Apple), Bixby (Samsung) and Cortana (Microsoft) — is expected to slow the machine-learning curve.
Those questioning the technology’s potential also point to studies showing that digital assistants are currently mainly used for listening to music, checking the weather and playing games.
“We still don’t see a lot of people shopping and buying with smart speakers yet, but this may change if more lower-cost models begin to incorporate screens,” said eMarketer analyst Victoria Petrock in a statement. “We’re also likely to see people doing more things with their voice assistants as they find their way into cars and other home-based devices.”
An eMarketer report predicts that 26.8 percent of adults will be using a smart speaker by the end of 2019, and indicated improved functionality should drive increased usage.
Brian X. Chen, a consumer technology writer for The New York Times, wrote, “Lost in the hype about virtual assistants is whether people truly want an omnipresent companion involved in their everyday tasks.”
Regardless, the wide range of smart home devices debuting at CES again spoke to the industry’s push to have smart speakers replace mobile phones as devices consumers interact with daily. The capabilities were displayed by a Google Assistant-themed ride at the show.
- Virtual Assistants Have Hit a Wall—and It’ll Be Years Before They Reach Full Potential – The Wall Street Journal
- Amazon Says 100 Million Alexa Devices Have Been Sold — What’s Next? – The Verge
- Devices That Will Invade Your Life in 2019 (and What’s Overhyped) – The New York Times
- Google Assistant will soon be on a billion devices, and feature phones are next – The Verge
- As CES opens, Amazon, Google tout digital assistant stats that highlight respective market strengths – Marketingland
- Smart speakers will dominate CES – Bloomberg
- Here’s how the Google Assistant became more helpful in 2018 – Google
- US: Amazon Echo Share Will Drop Below Two-Thirds in 2019 – eMarketer
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important will smart speakers become to the daily lives of consumers over the next five years when compared to mobile phones? What are the main pain points in their functionality and how they support smart home devices?