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Voice-controlled devices dominate CES

CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) is a myriad of innovation and technology – a cocktail of ambitious start-ups, huge industry players and tech enthusiasts, all mixed together in the extravagant melting pot that is Las Vegas.

Last year’s show was dominated by connected devices; from watches to fridges and even connected beds. This year’s major theme? Voice-controlled devices.

Voice-controlled devices exploded into our homes in 2017 thanks to advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) which saw Google sell “more than one Google Home device every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October.” NLP technology, which enables natural speech to act as ‘commands’ to execute, has led to major advances in sectors such as retail, as consumers use voice-controlled online shopping instead of ‘traditional’ online browsing.

Research from Narvar, an enterprise SaaS platform used by retailers and brands like Sephora, Levi’s, Gap, Neiman-Marcus, Crate & Barrel and GameStop, shows over 1.3 million British consumers have shopped online in the last 6 months using voice-controlled devices, and this figure is predicted to triple in 2018.

These devices are constantly ‘learning’ and improving their voice recognition. Google use a combination of explicit linguistic knowledge and deep learning solutions to keep answers grammatical, fluent and concise.

Advances in NLP and AI are creating new opportunities for businesses and new experiences for consumers. The possibilities of AI enhanced voice-controlled devices are almost limitless, however, these new ventures in uncharted waters have raised concerns regarding data privacy which were recently highlighted at Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence.

While most consumers automatically opt-in to service agreements that allow providers to use their information to improve their products, there is still concern that voice-controlled devices are vulnerable to unauthorised users accessing private information.

Tech companies are working hard to gain consumers trust that their data is secure. Google Home and Amazon Alexa voice commands are encrypted by default. It is safeguarding measures like this that will be pivotal to the advancement of voice controlled devices. During one of the recent Lords Select Committee’s on Artificial Intelligence, Dr Karachalios, MD, IEEE Standards Association said the advances in AI can accelerate the promise of technology and “satisfy the material needs of humanity”. A bold claim that will only come to fruition if this advancement is coupled with similar progress in the protection of consumer’s data.

It seems that any company looking to enter the voice-controlled market, whether it’s creating new services that are voice enabled or improving existing services to integrate with voice-controlled devices, will be using CES as a platform to showcase innovation in this ever-expanding space.

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