Things that talk

Voice assistants are rapidly entering the mainstream. This region could benefit

A plethora of gadgets have integrated Alexa, an internet-connected voice assistant built by Amazon. David Becker / Getty Images / AFP
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The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las ­Vegas can seem like the sort of conference that only appeals to hard-core enthusiasts. But as so often, what happens at the CES show in Vegas, doesn’t stay there.

This year, media reports have focused on the plethora of gadgets that have integrated Alexa, an internet-connected voice assistant built by Amazon. Voice assistants have become familiar to Apple users due to Siri, which enables iPhone users to ask questions and receive answers.

Companies have now embedded Alexa in fridges and TVs, in alarm clocks and, of course, cars. This could be the year personal assitants become fully mainstream. This presents an opportunity for the Arab world to get in on the ground floor and seek ways to integrate Alexa into technology here in the region. Admittedly, ­Alexa doesn’t work well yet – it can barely recognise any accent other than a handful of American ones and it doesn’t work in another language. But this sort of technology grows up fast.

OPINION