Apart from automobiles, the prevailing theme at CES is one of boredom. Those looking for new trends have instead found the same stories as last year, albeit a bit more advanced than the last time that they were told.
This steady progress is the real theme of CES 2018, as hype has been wound up to fever-pitch levels over the last few years and now the time has come to begin delivering. The result is likely to be a steady year where autonomous vehicles inch closer to reality and AR penetrates deeper into the enterprise, but not where new trends rock the industry to its core.
AI is going to continue to be a theme, but I think that 2018 will be another year of very slow development. Contrary to popular belief, RFM research has concluded that there has been very little progress in breaking down the really big problems of AI and without a new approach not much is going to change.
The current favored technique – backpropagation – was discovered in 1986 and took 26 years to start producing decent results. There are plenty of new techniques being worked on, but none of them have produced any results. Consequently, I am pretty certain that 2018 will be another year of small increments dressed up as a big advance.
The one area where I have seen movement is in the smart home. Developments within the smart home have been steady but the options for developers and functionality has improved markedly.
This is because in addition to splashing Google Assistant over every available surface in Las Vegas, Google has been putting a lot of effort into pushing the assistant to developers. All during CES I spoke with or passed by the stalls of over 100 companies making a smart gadget of some description. When I carried out this exercise last year, everyone was supporting Amazon Alexa and almost no one was supporting Google Assistant.
This year, everyone is still supporting Alexa but they have also either already included Google Assistant or have put it on the immediate roadmap. This is a big change from 2017, and I think it substantially reduces the appeal of Amazon Alexa, as Google Assistant remains a far better service.
The one exception is shopping and in this function Google is hopelessly outclassed. However, Amazon is giving away the Dash Wand, and I can see a scenario where users keep it stuck to the fridge for groceries and use Google Assistant for everything else.
Google’s position in the smart home has not improved quite as much as I was expecting, but its improvement – combined with the way that users are interacting with digital assistants – leads me to change my position.
I think that Google now has the edge over Amazon – it has by far the better product, and its native presence on smartphones means that it is dealing with far more inquiries than Amazon. Hence, I think that Google should be able to continue to improve the assistant relative to Amazon thereby steadily increasing its relative appeal over time.
Furthermore, with a multitude of third-party products coming to market, this will no longer be a battle over hardware and sound quality but will become one fought in the ecosystem. Here, I continue to think that Google has Amazon soundly beaten, the results of which I expect to see over the coming 24 months.
This article was first published on RadioFreeMobile