CES 2018: Voice Assistants, Connected Cars, Alexa vs. Google...and Chris

January 17, 2018
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Holger G. Weiss
CES 2018/  Westgate

We just finished at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, and I’ve travelled from the desert to the Valley to meet some more great people to talk about what we’re building here at German Autolabs.

There was so much to take in at the show, from some of the most exciting developments in technology for the year ahead to some fantastic keynote speeches to...a torrential rainstorm and a 3 hour power cut. One thing is for sure: it was a crazy week!

But after getting some space away from the madness I’ve had a chance to process what I saw. Here’s what I learned.

Voice assistants dominated...

As you might expect, CES 2018 was dominated by voice technology. Much of the conversation was, predictably, around developments in Amazon’s Alexa. But there was another interesting aspect to this: Google is getting more and more serious about its own voice assistant, Google Assistant, and there is sure to be fierce competition between the companies in this space over the next year. This was downtown Vegas:

...even in the car

But it wasn’t just Amazon and Google who were active in the voice assistant space, and voice assistants moved beyond the home.

Companies in specific sectors have begun to develop their own voice assistants. Mercedes was one key example: the German auto giant launched its LINGUATRONIC voice assistant, which will be the main method of control for Mercedes infotainment systems in the future. Simply use the command ‘Hey Mercedes’ (sound familiar?) and a direct or indirect speech command (such as ‘turn the air con off’, or ‘I’m too cold’) and the car will respond (by turning off the air conditioning or adjusting the temperature a few degrees, for example). Automotive companies choosing to develop their own voice assistants is something we might see more of in the future.

In opposition to this, many auto companies are adding integration for Alexa and Google Assistant to their car infotainment systems. Toyota and Lexus will start to add Alexa to their vehicles this year, for example.

The big battle will, I predict, be between car manufacturers themselves and the 3rd-party voice assistants: it’s maybe  easier for auto manufacturers to rely on companies like Amazon and Google for software and some of their drivers might demand it, but this means sacrificing data ownership and control, which is vital for domain knowledge and data security.

How does Chris fit in to this conversation?

This is where German Autolabs fits in. If auto manufacturers want to compete with the tech giants, we’re here to help. Our first product, Chris, fits with any car, and we’ll be using our experience building Chris to create innovative, fully researched and functional in-car software specifically built for drivers. We can help carmakers to build an experience that will not be shared across a public data platform.

We weren’t just at CES to see what everyone else was up to, we also took Chris and demonstrated what the device can do. You can see a video of me demonstrating Chris here, and here’s me taking Chris for a drive around the city.

 

Seeing what other companies are up to is a great way to get you thinking about what your own is doing, and where you fit in. It’s never been more clear to me that German Autolabs is perfectly positioned to provide drivers with a truly useful experience right now, without years of development, and offer a useful and effective option for car manufacturers looking to build their own assistant experience. We’re dynamic and flexible enough to move quickly, in comparison to many companies with more resources.

Co-founders Holger and Patrick in the booth

There’s also a real appetite for Chris. We had so many great conversations with those from the industry, many of whom immediately recognized the value of an in-car assistant that can be used in any car, and the quality of the data we’ll be able to leverage through this, which we can use for future development.

So all in all a great week. I’m looking forward to next year already!

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