CES Dispatches 2.0: A New Kind of Robot Invasion

CES Dispatches 2.0: A New Kind of Robot Invasion

An elderly lady welcomes a robot during daily activities of the project Robot-Era at nursing residence San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy.

SourceLaura Lezza/Getty

Why you should care

Because the robots are here, but they look nothing like we thought they would.

OZY and Giant Spoon are excited to partner on special live coverage from CES 2017— where the most forward-looking technology and media come together. Rather than cover just the latest gadgets, though, we’re taking you deeper with key takeaways, little-known rising stars, unconventional trends and, yes, the coolest sh*t from the convention. Tune in to our special Facebook Live tonight at 8pm EST / 5pm PST for fresh perspectives on the future of data and robotics.

Erin Hauswirth and Nathalie Con are associate directors at Giant Spoon, an innovation-driven marketing agency.

Our obsession with robots hasn’t faltered since the first Consumer Electronics Show opened its doors half a century ago. But we dreamed that the future of robots would look more like Rosie Jetson or C-3PO — humanoid bots that roamed and lived among us. Sure, you can find many cute Baymax or WALL-E cousins on the floors of Eureka Park here in Vegas, but some of today’s “robots” are rapidly changing our notions of what we thought they would be and what they could do for us.

Instead of the physical form-factor that we imagined decades ago, the artificial intelligence of robotics is weaving its way into many of the devices that we already use. Assistants like Alexa and Siri live in our speakers, phones, appliances and vehicles. These hidden robots are introducing new user behaviors, allowing us to become comfortable with this intelligence living in our most intimate environments, whether at home or on the road. While people are still trying to crack what robots look like (a sphere with a face like Leka? or a humanoid like Ubtech’s Lynx?), it’s the robots rooted in the familiar that are showing signs of mass adoption — perhaps indicating that while we would love the idea of a robo-maid like Rosie, we like her more for her intelligence, adaptability and function than her appearance.

A New Battleground for Tech Giants: Your Life’s Operating Systems

CES 2017 might go down as the tipping point for the massive integration of AI personalities into devices. The new battleground for the tech titans will come in the form of technology enabled with Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant or Amazon Echo — each will be pushing to be the preferred personal assistant for all of your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Leading up to this week’s tech convention, Google made it possible to use a Google Home speaker to control Android TVs, Microsoft announced Cortana’s forthcoming ability to control any Windows desktop in your home with a screen, Amazon baked its voice assistant into the Fire Stick and Facebook teased the ability to have Morgan Freeman’s voice help you out at home.

But here on the floor, the massive tech companies are taking those integrations a step further. Alexa is now coming to Ford cars. Microsoft is using their new ability to turn any Windows-powered screen into a voice interface by baking Cortana into BMW and Nissan dashboards. And Google debuted Nvidia Shield Android TVs with Assistant on the set — not just the remote. These tech giants are all flexing their growing ecosystem of compatible devices in Vegas with the hopes that their platform will get chosen when consumers start scooping up smarter products. In the same way that certain folks prefer either Android or Apple operating systems, soon our preference for AI personalities will drive a much bigger field of product decision-making when it comes to everything from our car to lamp fixtures or power strips and toys.

More AI-Powered Devices Switch From Reactive to Adaptive

Beyond Alexa and Siri, we’re seeing new entrants build AI-powered devices that aren’t just reactive, but also adaptive. LG Deep Learning home appliances and Vivint’s smart home service Sky claim to learn people’s behaviors to adapt to the nuances of their daily routines. The smart alarm clock Bonjour, below, adjusts wake-up times for appointments and weather forecasts, among other aspects of a person’s life, while the GeniCan scans the trash to automatically order refills for whatever has been disposed of. Even multi-functional AI devices like Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri visually detect abnormalities in the house and alert users as soon as it sees something out of the ordinary. Rather than just react to direct requests, these devices self-optimize based on people’s behaviors. If we thought the on-demand economy changed our lives before, imagine how predictive tech will be when it comes to impacting our efficiency and purchasing patterns.

Automakers: Tomorrow’s Tech Titans?

Can we still call automakers just automakers anymore? This year we’re starting to see these companies act like the titans that usually dominate the tech headlines. Automakers have access to some of the best engineering, infrastructure and materials, so it makes sense that they’d focus their resources on products that could have broad-sweeping implications well beyond getting us from A to B. Both Honda and auto engineering firm Continental developed car-to-car social network systems — not so your car can share baby photos, but so it can “talk” to other vehicles and gather data to help with future commutes. Meanwhile, companies such as Hyundai and Ford are moving beyond their traditional businesses. Just as Facebook is no longer only a social networking company, automakers are no longer just in the business of selling cars; they’re rapidly evolving as technology companies that understand our future will be driven by AI.

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