CES 2018: Google challenges Amazon with smart home offering

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Powered by Google Assistant, Lenovo's Smart Display, aims to be the best digital assistant out there - and it was one of Top Picks for CES 2018.

Google also set up a couple of giant gumball machines where CES attendees could ask the Google Assistant spoken questions and win prizes ranging from "Hey Google" winter caps and tote bags to Google Nest security cameras and Google Home Mini smart speakers. Amazon.com's Alexa voice assistant is the early leader and could spur up to $12 billion in Amazon sales in 2020, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analysts projected this week.

According to sources close to the matter, Google is toying with the idea of launching a revamped online store in February. LG, Lenovo, Sony and JBL are all integrating Google Assistant into so-called Smart Displays, which will let you interact with the Assistant in new ways. LG of course had plenty to show off, namely its new Nano Cell Super UHD TVs and the new OLED G8 TV models, both of which look stylish, promising, and are full of improvements over last year's TVs from the brand. But, for the most part, your auto will still respond to the same commands in the same way.

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When Lenovo Group Ltd made a decision to create an assistant-enabled screen last summer that would sit on a kitchen counter like a mini-TV, it turned to Google.

If CES 2016 saw the first trickles of Alexa compatibility, and CES 2017 saw the dam break, this year's CES saw Amazon's voice agent flood the landscape of consumer devices, working its way into such water analogy-friendly devices as showers, washing machines and home leak detection devices. A two-finger swipe on the touchpad built into the right side of the glasses takes you to the home screen, while a one finger swipe advances you through UI, with a single-tap used for making selections. Now called Actions, these skills will appear in their own section of the Google Assistant app.

"We see virtual assistants as inevitable in the workplace", said Joel Jacobs, vice president, CIO and CSO at MITRE Corporation in Bedford, Mass.

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Though Toyota and Lexus plan to install the voice-activated assistant in select vehicles, the launch of PCs with Alexa highlights its move from the consumer world to the enterprise - much as the iPhone in 2007 moved quickly from individual users to become a mainstay of the workforce.

Alexa has benefited from the slow burning success of Amazon's Echo smart home speakers, but that was only the start. The front-facing camera will come in handy for video calling, using Google Duo. Amazon's Echo line controlled about 73 percent of that market, while Google Home, which debuted in late 2016, controlled the remaining 27 percent.

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