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Our gadgets are getting mouthy


NewsHubIn a corner of LG’s sprawling, dripping-with-technology booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center sat a circular table populated by a group of small, futuristic snowmen. Each of them sported a black touchscreen display showing a pair of electronic eyes that would intermittently squint as if they were smiling at you.
On a large screen nearby, a video showed one of these gizmos, the LG Hub Robot , calling out in a soothing tone: “Hello. I’m your personal assistant at home. I learn your lifestyle to better serve you. ”
This year’s CES tech show in Las Vegas highlighted how our technology is finding its voice, with makers of cars, appliances and speakers starting to let people control their products simply by talking to them. A big catalyst for this trend is Amazon, whose Alexa voice assistant was announced as a new addition to dozens of devices at the show , including the LG robots, which are expected to go on sale this year.
At CES, people say hello to LG’s new talking robots, which can play music, read you a book or activate an LG robot vacuum.
All this voice-enabled stuff points to a future in which people can interact with their devices without even having to get off the couch to grab a remote control. Adding more voice to technology could make complicated systems, like an automated home, easier to use than they’d be with a busy touch display or a remote bristling with buttons. The ubiquity of Alexa at the show — even if Amazon didn’t have a booth here — underscores the importance of these assistants, which include Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana.
“In the end, the assistant is going to be pervasive when you’re at work, when you’re in the car, when you’re at school, whatever it might be,” Rishi Chandra, vice president of product management for Google Home, said during a smart-home panel Thursday.
People, though, will have to weigh the positives of these digital helpers against potential drawbacks, including privacy worries about Wi-Fi-enabled microphones that are always listening for an activation word like “Alexa.

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