Over the past few years the CES trade show has become a familiar post-holidays pilgrimage for many of the country's biggest marketers. They see the event as a way to get a sneak peek at the latest tech gadgets and technologies that can help them engage with their customers. This year marketing executives from companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell Soup and PepsiCo Inc. made their way to Las Vegas for the gathering. The convention was jam-packed with everything from self-driving cars to robots that play chess to Procter & Gamble's air-freshener spray that can connect with Alphabet Inc.'s Nest home to automatically release pleasant scents in the home. But there was one category that seemed to especially win over marketers: virtual assistants.
The term "machine learning" covers a grab bag of algorithms, techniques, and technology that are by now pretty much everywhere in modern life. However, machine intelligence has recently started to be used not just for identifying problems but to build better products. Amongst the first is the world's only beers brewed with the help of machine intelligence, which went on sale a few weeks ago. The machine learning algorithms uses a combination of reinforcement learning and bayesian optimisation to assist the brewer in deciding how to change the recipe of the beer, with the algorithms learning from experience and customer feedback. Perhaps the most obvious intrusion of machine learning into the physical world is the voice recognition that drives Apple's Siri, or Amazon's Alexa.
In what could be the highest, best use of voice recognition technology to a generation of digital natives, Amazon's digital assistant has added beer runs to its skills. Beginning Tuesday, Amazon Prime customers who have an Alexa-powered device, like the Echo speaker, can order beer, wine and spirits in Seattle, and beer and wine in Columbus and Cincinnati. Parents needn't worry: customers must show valid ID to receive the order. The rollout is actually an extension of Amazon Now, which as of Tuesday is part of Alexa's skill set. It's available in the more than 30 cities that have the two-hour delivery service for Prime members.