The CES 2019 gadget show opened its doors Tuesday, with tech companies from giants to tiny startups showing off their latest products and services. In recent years, CES’s influence has declined as Apple, Google and other major companies throw their own events to launch new wares. Still, more than 180,000 people from about 150 countries are expected to attend. The sprawling event spans 11 official venues, plus scores of unofficial ones throughout Las Vegas. The four-day show in Las Vegas opened after two days of media previews. Here are the latest findings and observations from Associated Press reporters on the ground.
CUTTING THROUGH THE BABEL
Google has transformed CES into a Disney-like theme park — complete with singing animatronic macarons — to showcase new features of its voice-enabled digital assistant. This includes an “interpreter mode” that enables some of Google’s smart home devices to work as a translator. It’s being piloted at a hotel concierge desk near the Las Vegas tech conference and rolls out to consumer devices in several weeks. Voice assistants are getting pretty good at translating speech into text, but it’s a thornier challenge in artificial intelligence to enable real-time translation across different languages. Google’s new feature expands upon real-time translation services it’s rolled out to Android phones and headphones over the past year.
This is the second year that Google Assistant had made a huge splash at CES in an effort to outbid Amazon’s Alexa as the voice assistant of choice. Google this year has an amusement park ride that resembles Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” though on a roller-coaster-like train at slow speeds. Talking and singing characters showcase Google’s various voice-assistant features as visitors ride along.
Google isn’t the only CES exhibitor promising the next generation of instant translation. Chinese AI firm iFlytek has been showing of its translation apps and devices that are already popular among Chinese travelers. And at least two startups, New York-based Waverly Labs and China-based TimeKettle, are promoting their earbuds that work as in-ear translation devices.
BRING THAT UMBRELLA
IBM is expanding its side job as the world’s meteorologist. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty used a keynote address Tuesday to unveil a new global forecasting system that promises more accurate local weather reports in places that never had them before.