Alexa, Make It So

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Culture & Trends

Alexa, Make It SoKaren Schwartz
January 31, 2018

From Google and IBM to Amazon, companies are racing to see whose voice-enabled virtual assistant will wiggle their way into consumers’ lives -- and where it makes sense or is helpful to have them.

The race is on to see who can make the best voice-enabled virtual assistant. Google and IBM have their hats in the ring alongside Amazon’s well-known Alexa, which seems to be on the cusp of adding virtual secretary to its list of abilities.

Amazon’s virtual assistant, accessed largely through Amazon devices but also usable with compatible third-party devices, is making her way into cars, watches, thermostats and speakers, to name a few. She can play your favorite music, read you the news and plan out your day. And that seems to be just the start.

But while automakers, consumer products makers and others have been keen to add these capabilities – who doesn’t want to talk to their coffeemaker? – some question how eager people will be to adopt virtual assistants in certain sectors of their lives. For instance, while Ford and Volkswagen have said that they would integrate Alexa into its vehicles, this type of onboard technology might prove to be a distraction. Likewise, concerns have been raised about privacy and security when bringing virtual helpers into the family home.

That said, Alexa alone is expected to bring Amazon $10 billion in revenues alone by 2020, according to RBC Capital in 2017.

The conversation with internet-connected devices is sure to continue. Reports suggest there will be 46 billion internet-connected devices in 2021, up 200 percent from 2016. And voice assistants may be key in conversing with them.

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