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Amazon Alexa, Concept Cars Dominate CES

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AP Photo/John Locher

A translucent screen shows smart car technology at the Intel booth during CES International, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.

CES just wrapped up its 50th conference.

That’s five decades of introducing the latest technology, from VCRs in 1970s to augmented reality in 2016.

The consumer show didn’t deliver any blockbusters this year, but it did touch on a couple of themes.

Sean O'Kane of The Verge shares this recap.

What is 'Alexa'? And how is it integrated?

O'Kane: Alexa is Amazon's smart assistant and they first rolled it out on the Echo, which is a cylindrical speaker — almost robot — that you can put in your home. You can do everything from set a timer to a growing list of things like order stuff from Amazon for you or turn off and on your smart lights.

What they've done is they've opened up that platform so that it's not just [compatible with] the Echo. You can now get Alexa in a bunch of form factors and other companies that want to build it into their products can do so. This year's CES was all about seeing all the different places where people are building this into. 

Do you have to have a smarthouse to have everything work together with Alexa? 

It does only work with certain things. It's not like you can buy the one product and then it will integrate right into what you have. There are a lot of different companies out there that are marketing their products as compatible with it. So you have to look at it that way. It is definitely that you're buying into a system as opposed to just buying a product. 

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Concept vehicles were another trend. Tell us about that.

CES has become a pretty big and important car show. At [the Detroit Auto Show] it's really all about the stuff you're going to be able to drive this year next year, the year after that. CES is really about — not even concept cars that you might be able to someday drive — it's really about these companies showing you what they think the future of their company is, as well as the future of the industry. We saw a bunch of really, really wild-looking concepts. 

Probably the most tangible one we saw is something that I know is familiar to you guys out there in Nevada, which is Faraday Future finally showed off the futuristic version of their eventual production car that they hope to roll out in a couple of years. And for the first time actually showed a car that drives. A nice change of pace for them after a year and half of a whole lot of talk and nothing that really rolled. 

You don't sound optimistic about Faraday Future.

It is a fantastic thing that they accomplished. The car that they did build and bring is pretty remarkable. It is, by all we can tell from what they say, one of the fastest cars around. It is, depending on your preference, a beautiful car. And it's a really nice idea this company coming out of nowhere, grabbing a bunch of talent from a bunch of competitors and being able to put together something that fast that could be an electric, maybe ride sharing, maybe partially autonomous revolutionary kind of thing. But it has still only built the one car that we know of and there has been a lot of smoke and mirrors in the run up to it.

What were the other fun gadgets you saw?

The funny thing about CES is [it has] everything from stuff that you would expect to see in a mall kiosk in a couple weeks to this high concept stuff. The strange thing about this year and really a trend over the last couple years is it's all that middle ground stuff has sort of disappeared from the show. It's 10 years ago today that Apple unveiled the first iPhone and they've sort of left the show. Samsung left the show for another convention. 

You can walk the show floor and see that everything has a camera, everything is a drone. As far as useful tech that is more than just a gimmick and stuff that's not a concept that's years out, CES is weirdly becoming a place that it's a little bit harder to find that stuff. 

This has become a show for smarthome appliances and it's not just Alexa-enabled appliances. It's companies like LG will roll out smart fridges and smart washing machines and all this stuff every year now. If that's something you're in the market for, you might want to start paying attention to CES. 

Guests

Sean O'Kane, tech reporter, The Verge

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Jan 12, 2010

CES

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