It’s virtually impossible to be at CES 2017 and not run into Amazon at every turn—even though the e-commerce giant does not have its own formal booth.
Amazon’s chatty virtual assistant Alexa, the name for its intelligent cloud-based voice recognition AI system, is being integrated into a slew of products at CES 2017, so no Echo speaker required as the software is integrated into smart devices, appliances, cars, a personal robot and its first phone: the Huawei Mate 9.
CES attendees may spot that LG features Alexa into its Smart InstaView refrigerator with 29-inch touchscreen. Westinghouse, Element and Seiki are making TVs with Amazon’s Fire TV software and Alexa voice-controlled remote. First Alert is adding Alexa (along with Apple HomeKit and Google Home) to its OneLink home security line.
GE has Alexa in its C by GE LED ring lamp, Lenovo in its Smart Assistant speaker, Mattel’s Nabi unit added it to the Aristotle digital assistant for kids and it’s in Bixi’s portable gesture controller and Omaker’s Wow wireless portable speaker.
Other Alexa integrations on show at CES 2017 include Whirlpool’s suite of next-generation washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens; Samsung’s PowerBot Robot Vacuum; Dish’s Hopper DVR; Belkin’s WeMo Dimmer Switch and WeMo Mini; the Nightingale sleep system; and ADT’s Pulse security system.
In fact, Alexa has surpassed 7,000 integrations, up from 1,000 in June 2016, reports Geekwire.
This CES is bringing some novel partnerships for Alexa, including giving voice to Lynx, a video-enabled humanoid robot from China’s UBTECH Robotics that’s debuting this week.
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) January 5, 2017
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) January 5, 2017
And starting this summer, Alexa will be available in cars when Ford integrates the digital assistant into its Sync 3 infotainment system. Drivers can start their cars from their couch, lock and unlock car doors, and check battery charge and driving range. And that’s not all.
“Alexa in the car will let drivers order items on Amazon, listen to audio books, play music, check news, search for restaurants and get directions,” reports Bloomberg. “The driver just has to push a button on the steering wheel and say, ‘Alexa,’ followed by a command such as ‘find an Italian restaurant.’”
Ford’s press release details the full menu of Alexa-enabled options coming to its cars including the ability to “read weather reports, play music, check news, add items to shopping lists and more – all from their car. For instance, you could ask Alexa to add milk or batteries to your shopping list without ever picking up a pen.”
What’s more, Alexa can tee up and play “audiobooks inside the vehicle, search and transfer local destinations to navigation, request news… command internet-enabled functions such as lighting, security systems, garage doors and other Alexa smart home devices; and access home-to-car features so electric vehicle owners to start and stop their engine, lock and unlock doors, and monitor vehicle readings, including fuel level and battery range.”
Volkswagen is also showcasing how Alexa is powering its digital key and in-car personalization features at CES 2017. As VW notes in a press release about its ID concept car (above) and digital personalization with Alexa,
Visitors at the show will have the unique opportunity to try out Volkswagen’s in-vehicle integration of Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. Through a hands-free demonstration, users can contact the Alexa Voice Service of their home or office Amazon Echo system, operating any available function from their car in an easy, convenient way. Users can also ask Alexa to perform advanced functions such as resuming an audio book they began at home.
Volkswagen is additionally combining the Alexa Voice Service with Car-Net functions. In the future, this will make it even easier for users to schedule appointments or plan errands and always stay connected and up-to-date in their vehicles. This in turn makes it possible to control Car-Net functions from home or the office. If they decide to buy flowers on their way home, the navigation can be programmed with a voice command like “Alexa, ask Volkswagen the way to the nearest flower shop.” A follow-up “Alexa, ask Volkswagen how much gas is left in the tank” can determine if they’ll also need to fuel up along the way. A demonstration living room on Volkswagen’s CES stand will allow visitors to see some of Alexa’s potential in connecting home to vehicle.
As brands jockey for position on the dashboard, Amazon is competing with Apple’s CarPlay and now Microsoft’s Skype in the race to transform the driver’s seat into a smart cockpit. “Voice is the future and this is particularly true in cars,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP Amazon Alexa, to Bloomberg. “The ability to use your voice to control your smart home, access entertainment, manage to-do lists and more makes for an extraordinary driving experience.”
— The Verge (@verge) January 5, 2017
Stepping outside Alexa, Amazon is reportedly vying with Forever 21 to acquire bankrupt American Apparel, topping a $66 million offer from Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear, which American Apparel agreed to when it filed for bankruptcy in November.
Amazon began launching private label brands last year and sells at least seven of its trademarked brands: Franklin & Freeman, Franklin Tailored, James & Erin, Lark & Ro, North Eleven, Scout + Ro, and Society New York.
Now the retail behemoth is stepping into athleisure with its own in-house brand of athletic apparel. Amazon recently acquired online fashion stores including ShopBop, MyHabit, and EastDane. The company sponsored the New York Men’s Fashion Week in 2015.
Amazon’s total share of the US apparel market is expected to reach 14 percent by 2020, up from 5 percent in 2014, reports Business Insider. That will make it the largest domestic apparel retailer, replacing the current leader, Macy’s, which announced plans to cut up to 10,000 positions and 68 stores in wake of dismal holiday sales.
Named for one of the largest rivers in the world, Amazon continues to carve out a deeper and wider path that seems to know no bounds.