CES2017 round-up

Home assistants in all shapes and sizes

An Amazon Dot is shown on top of a Hopper at the Dish Network booth during the 2017 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan 6, 2017.
An Amazon Dot is shown on top of a Hopper at the Dish Network booth during the 2017 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan 6, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

One of the biggest trends of CES 2017 is the proliferation of digital home assistants - devices which connect to other smart devices in your home, and which serve as a hub for you to control all of them with just your voice.

Big brand names like Lenovo and LG are throwing their weight behind such devices and technology. Most of them are powered by Amazon's Alexa technology, a smart artificial intelligence software that recognises voice commands asking it to perform a variety of tasks.

Unfortunately, Alexa is not officially supported in Singapore, which means local users who find a way of getting such devices are limited in what they can do. They can't ask Alexa to book them a Uber ride, for example, as location services are tied to the US.

At CES, Alexa found her way into a number of devices, such as Chinese PC maker Lenovo's Smart Assistant. While functionally identical to Amazon's Echo - the first device to run Alexa - the Smart Assistant comes with better speakers and potential third-party upgrades from Lenovo.

Digital assistants are also evolving beyond looking just like cylinders and tubes. Companies are also moving into robotic assistants, such as South Korean electronics firm LG's Hub Robot, also powered by Alexa.

It does everything an Alexa-enabled device can do, but comes with a screen most of the other tube-like devices lack, with cute "eyes" that change depending on what it is doing.

Chinese Internet giant Baidu also entered the game with its "Little Fish", a robot with a mounted screen for the China market.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Home assistants in all shapes and sizes'. Print Edition | Subscribe