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.
Our modern age is rife with questions that could have been (indeed, often were) posed by genre writers such as Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells or Philip K. Dick. We'd like to pose a few of our own: Is it truly safe to put our lives in the "hands" of self-driving cars? Is Amazon's Alexa spying on our idle chatter? What happens when smart machines become smarter than the people who operate them? Many of the most critical questions brought about by advancing technology are related to work.
Dhananjay Motwani is thinking of an animal, and his 20 Questions opponent is, question by question, trying to figure out what it is. "Is it larger than a microwave oven?" "Yes." "No." "Is it a vegetarian?" "Yes." What's impressive here isn't that the questioner is a computer; that's old hat. It's that the machine and Motwani are chatting in his blue Hyundai Sonata, trundling along one of Silicon Valley's many freeways.
Google has predicted flight delays for a while, but only if you've searched for a flight yourself. Wouldn't it be better if it warned you before you packed your bags? In addition to bringing delay predictions to Assistant, Google is rolling out proactive warnings over the next few weeks. If your post-holidays return trip is likely to start late, Assistant will both let you know and provide a reason if one is available. You'll know to grab an extra book or TV episode for that longer wait at your gate.