null 0 12 Photos Smart Home Gadgets Tech Industry Tags More digital assistant stories Amazon Alexa 2018 event: Editors react Samsung’s first Bixby speaker, the Galaxy Home, revealed Share your voice CES 2019 Google is primed to go big at CES again Amazon’s Echo devices get redesign on the way to world domination Apple, Siri fall further behind Google, Amazon in the smart home 9:57 The world’s largest tech show has become center stage for the digital assistant wars.Amazon Alexa was the belle of the CES ball two years ago when the e-commerce giant unveiled a long list of product integrations that included Ford vehicles and Whirlpool appliances. Not to be overshadowed, Google the following year constructed a large, eye-catching stage and announced four new Google Assistant-powered smart displays.Which brings us to CES 2019, kicking off next week. There, Amazon and Google are expected to make big splashes designed to show the rest of the tech industry that they — not the other guy — have the best platform for operating our smart homes, connected cars and voice-powered offices. Making their cases will be especially important at CES, since the show has become a who’s who for the smart home and automotive industries, two major growth areas for voice assistants.But while both have extended the reach and influence of voice computing, both also need to broaden their messages and showcase their voice assistants’ capabilities. That work could persuade more consumers that they need smart speakers as much as they need smartphones. Currently, 32 percent of Americans own a smart speaker while 77 percent have smartphones, according to Adobe and Pew Research, showing there’s much more room for voice to expand Smart speaker adoption has been growing at a healthy clip, but drawing in new customers may get harder, with increased consumer concern about data privacy and a regular trickle of negative anecdotes about Alexa malfunctioning. Also, Adobe reported the No. 1 reason people don’t own a smart speaker is that they feel they just don’t have a use for one.”If the industry can convince those that do not own a smart speaker to get one, we believe the effects can be exponential,” in sparking new uses in gaming, shopping and search, Adobe Analytics’ Heidi Besik wrote last month.Here’s what to expect from the leading voice-assistant players at CES this year.Amazon Alexa: The market leaderThe online retailing kingpin will likely keep up its strategy of announcing lots of new Alexa partnerships to demonstrate its market dominance and highlight the versatility of its voice assistant.Amazon may also use its now sprawling devices portfolio to help retain its lead. That could mean using CES to unveil new integrations or features for its Fire TV streaming devices, Amazon Key in-home delivery service or Ring home-security gadgets. But don’t expect a long list of new Amazon-branded devices. The company introduced many Alexa-powered devices in September at its own Seattle launch event. At CES, Amazon is all about unveiling new partnerships, like this one with Toyota last year. Ben Fox Rubin/CNET And while Amazon’s playbook of using a large volume of announcements to show voice supremacy has worked well in the past, the company now faces a lot more competition. In mid-2017, Amazon controlled just over 70 percent of the US smart speaker market, eMarketer reported. The research firm last month predicted that number will drop to 63 percent in 2019 as competitors catch up. The Google Home speaker, for instance, should reach 31 percent; other speakers, including the Apple HomePod and Sonos One, will account for 12 percent. (Some consumers use multiple brands, accounting for a total that’s higher than 100 percent.)It’s why Amazon needs the CES spotlight focused on Alexa and not on some rival voice assistant.Google Assistant: The fast-following No. 2One of the four smart displays Google unveiled with its partners at CES last year. Josh Miller/CNET If any company can make Amazon nervous about its future in voice, it’s Google.The search giant introduced its first smart speaker in late 2016, two years after Amazon unveiled the Echo, but has quickly captured almost a third of the US smart speaker market. Google has also copied some of Amazon’s best ideas — coming out with a cheap, pint-size speaker called the Google Home Mini to rival the Echo Dot, and introducing its own smart displays to compete against the Echo Show.Now Google is signaling big plans for CES 2019, saying it’ll triple the size of its presence from last year. The company may introduce more partnerships as well as smart-home features from its Nest team to help keep pace with Amazon.But while Google has made big strides, it’s unlikely to dethrone Alexa in the next few years.Samsung Bixby: A lot of potentialSamsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, has been working its way into voice via its Bixby assistant. It started by bringing Bixby to its Galaxy S8 in 2017, and even created a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the phone. It also unveiled a smart speaker in August, called the Galaxy Home, which hasn’t gone on sale yet. In late 2017, the company said it would start adding Bixby into its refrigerators and smart TVs. Facebook may make some noise this year, using CES to promote its Alexa-powered Portal smart display. Then there’s IBM. Given that CEO Ginni Rometty has a coveted CES keynote speaker spot this year, we may hear news about Watson, though it will likely be focused more on businesses rather than consumers.For any of these companies hoping to hold its own at CES — and many don’t even want to play that game — coming out from under Amazon and Google’s massive shadows won’t be easy.’Hello, humans’: Google’s Duplex could make Assistant the most lifelike AI yet.The Honeymoon Is Over: Everything you need to know about why tech is under Washington’s microscope. Now playing: Watch this: Samsung has been talking up its plans to make Bixby a more important piece of its future. But so far, it’s well behind Amazon and Google in voice assistant smart-home devices, features and partnerships. It may even be too late to catch up.The company is typically a big player at CES, so it may use the show to keep pushing awareness of Bixby. It’ll be a challenge to stand out, though, against the two top dogs.The rest of the pack: A scramble for relevanceApple’s Siri pioneered voice computing on phones and remains a notable player in the market. But Siri has fallen far behind the competition, and Apple’s HomePod remains an also-ran in smart speakers as the company focuses on iPhones, its main profit driver. In addition, Apple rarely has a public presence at CES, preferring to host its own events. All these factors point to Siri likely being irrelevant at the upcoming show.Microsoft’s presence at CES in recent years has focused mostly on supporting its PC partners’ new devices, so it’s unlikely to make a big Cortana-related announcement at the show. Although an early player in voice computing, the software giant hasn’t pushed Cortana development, keeping its voice assistant a minor player. Google Assistant Alexa Amazon Voice recognition Google Samsung Siri
Electric Cars Car Industry Trucks SUVs Comments 22 Photos More From Roadshow Tags 2 Rivian, the startup manufacturer planning to launch an all-electric pickup truck and an electric SUV, announced Friday it has received a $700 million equity investment that is led by internet giant Amazon. Rivian said it will remain an independent company, but the investment will no doubt help the new automaker push its planned models into production.The investment will help startup Rivian launch this R1T pickup and the related R1S SUV. Rivian Rivian showed off its R1T electric pickup truck and R1S electric SUV at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. The R1T will have a driving range of up to “400+” miles, depending on which battery pack a buyer chooses. It’s scheduled to launch in November 2020 and will be built at a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois. The R1S, meanwhile, is a seven-seat electric SUV that’ll offer up to 410 miles of range. It’s set to launch in early 2021. The two models share many of their mechanical components.Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe characterized the investment as key for Rivian’s growth. “This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility,” he said in a statement. “Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible.””We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to invest in such an innovative company.”Rivian promises its all-electric vehicles will have plenty of off-roading capability.Rivian’s two vehicles will be pricey luxury models, with the R1T tentatively scheduled to start at $69,000. Both vehicles ride on the company’s own “Skateboard” chassis that features a large centrally mounted battery pack and two electric motors. Though the vehicles are impressive, it’s safe to say that it’s still a long journey from showing two vehicles to actually selling them to the general public. Ramping up production will be “the biggest challenge we have,” Rivian executive director of engineering Mark Vinnels told Roadshow in fall 2018.Rivian offered no further details about the investment, saying only that this equity investment round, “includes participation from existing shareholders.” An earlier report had suggested that Amazon was interested in investing into Rivian. That report also claimed that General Motors might also want to invest in the electric-car manufacturer, but as of Friday, there’s no news on that front. 2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better Amazon 2020 Kia Telluride review: Kia’s new SUV has big style and bigger value 2020 Hyundai Palisade review: Posh enough to make Genesis jealous The Rivian R1T might be the electric pickup truck of tomorrow Share your voice
Volkswagen Tags 10 Photos Volkswagen VW’s adorable I.D. Buzz charms us on the California coast 3:28 Check out the VW ID 3’s clever camouflage 2020 Mini JCW Clubman first drive: A fast alternative for the crossover-averse 2020 Kia Soul review: Well-rounded box More From Roadshow 2020 Toyota 4Runner first drive: Same as it ever was — mostly Enlarge ImageGet ’em while the gettin’s good. Volkswagen With a brand spankin’ new electric hatchback soon to arrive, Volkswagen is ramping up its efforts to get people to embrace electrification, and its latest scheme should both accomplish that and help shore up some leftover supply for its outgoing EV.Volkswagen announced late last week that it will start offering extended test drives in the UK. These flexible test drives are, in essence, 48-hour loans that start and end at the dealership. In those 48 hours, though, people are free to do whatever, so long as they don’t leave the e-Golf dead by the side of the road or something equally silly. It’s a smart idea from an adoption perspective. You can theorycraft all you want about how well an electric vehicle will or won’t fit into your lifestyle, but you’ll never know for sure until you give it a whirl, and this allows everyone that opportunity without requiring an actual purchase. If it turns out the e-Golf’s 144-mile range (by Europe’s WLTP standard) fits into your life, there you go.It’s also likely a clever move that will help VW push remaining e-Golf stock through its doors. The car will become all but irrelevant when the ID 3 electric hatchback launches in mid-2020. With its shortest-range battery offering about 205 miles of range (again, by WLTP measurements) and its longest stretching north of 340 miles, the ID 3 has been built from the start as an EV, as opposed to the e-Golf, which runs on a variant of the MQB platform.The ID 3 is already forming a line. According to the automaker, it has now received more than 20,000 preorders for the ID 3, and it hopes to push that number to 30,000 by the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Share your voice 0 Post a comment Electric Cars Hatchbacks Now playing: Watch this: More about 2022 Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Preview • Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: Driving this concept gets us smiling
2020 Kia Telluride review: Kia’s new SUV has big style and bigger value 2020 Hyundai Palisade review: Posh enough to make Genesis jealous Car Culture Electric Cars 4:33 3 Juice up the outdoors with Harley-Davidson’s electric bike concepts More From Roadshow See what your new electric car needs to break it in right 2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better 7 Photos Now playing: Watch this: Comments Share your voice Tags Indian traffic is legendarily wild, but imagine it without the smog haze or the nasal putt-putt of two-stroke engines and diesels. India’s EV incentive wants to make that happen. Hindustan Times/Getty Images Lots of places around the world are looking for ways to incentivize folks to ditch their internal combustion vehicles and get shiny new(er) electric vehicles instead. America famously has its EV tax credit and all its production number provisos and phased phase-out. China has something similar regarding EV purchase subsidies.India is keeping things a little simpler, according to a report Wednesday by Reuters. Rather than dealing with credits or rebates, India is considering simply not charging EV owners registration fees. It’s brilliant.India’s plan would apply not only to cars but to all kinds of electric vehicles, including motorcycles, scooters and autorickshaws. Frankly, we want to see people driving electrified Hindustan Ambassadors around because that would be great.In any case, this a plan that would, in theory at least, require minimal effort on the part of the government and it could prove to be a boon to pollution-clogged India. It would also help to reduce India’s dependence on foreign oil.
Sarah Tew/CNET If you have a serious home-theater system, or even a semiserious one with three or more components, a universal remote control is a wonderful thing. The best universal remotes can unify all those different device clickers into a single wand in a way that can feel magical. All of the best universal remote options have superior ergonomics, with more intuitive button layouts and a better feel than standard remotes. And many of them work with your smartphone or voice systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. My family and I have used many of the remotes on this list to control my main home-theater system for months or years at a time. At various points they’ve controlled multiple devices including my TVs, AV receivers, game consoles, Roku streamers and even a cable box DVR. My family uses the system as much as I do, and my main criteria in a universal remote is making it simple enough for a child to operate.Here are my favorite choices for best universal remote over the years that are currently available, in ascending order of price.Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site. Read the Logitech Companion review My pick for the best universal remote for the money, is the Companion, a real remote tied to a Harmony Hub. Since the Harmony Hub handles the actual command sending you don’t have to aim the remote and risk one of your devices missing a command — which leads to confusion and delay. The remote is slick and easy to hold, and the battery lasts for months. In my years of using it at home, the main things I missed are backlighting behind the keys and a remote finder. Logitech Harmony Companion: $105 Sarah Tew/CNET Read the Logitech Harmony 650 review Caavo Control Center: $60 plus service fee Read the Logitech Harmony Express preview Read the Amazon Fire TV Cube review Read the Caavo Control Center preview See at Amazon Comments Logitech Harmony wrote the book on the universal remote control, and these are its most basic clickers I can recommend. The main appeal over a cheaper, non-Harmony-based remote controller, or the clicker that comes with your cable box, is the activity-based control. Press the “Watch TV” or “Listen to Music” buttons and the remote controller turns on all the relevant devices (such as your smart TV, blue-ray player, cable box and AV receiver), switches to the right inputs and maps the keys to that activity (Volume to the receiver and Channel up/down to the cable box, for example). Unlike more-expensive Harmonys (below), which use a universal remote app for setup and control, you’ll have to use Harmony’s Mac- or PC-based software to program the remote. The 650 and 665 also rely on IR (infrared) codes emitted from the front of the remote — if you want point-anywhere convenience, you’ll have to spend up for a system with a hub.The 665 is the only one currently listed on Harmony’s site but the 650 is identical (aside from color and number of devices each can control) and can often be found for less, especially refurbished. Harmony Elite: $250 Now we’re getting into big spending territory. The Elite’s main draw over the Companion is its screen, and for most users it’s just not worth it. The touch screen makes it more versatile than cheaper models, especially for calling up favorite channels and Roku apps, and the full backlighting is great. Unfortunately, both suck a lot of battery power so you (and your family) will need to remember to park the remote in its dock on the reg. The Hub is the only clicker on this list that doesn’t actually include a clicker. Instead, you control everything using the Harmony smartphone app — or by talking to your Alexa or Google Home speaker. The hub itself nestles deep in your AV cabinet, blasting out Infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to your equipment. This Harmony smart control is a great system if you live on your smartphone, but for most people investing in a real remote is worth the extra few bucks. Share your voice See at Amazon See at Amazon Amazon Fire TV Cube: $120 Logitech’s newest all-in-one remote control is its most voice-centric yet. Like the Caavo, you can use voice commands to control stuff by talking into the smart control, but unlike Caavo, the Express can talk back in Alexa’s voice. It’s like having a miniature Alexa speaker in your hand. After a couple months as my family’s main remote I find myself wanting an actual power button — you have to say “Turn on the TV” or “Watch Netflix” or even “Turn off the TV” to get stuff to happen — but my main quibble is its high price. As Harmony’s only remote with a finder function, however, this is still the one I’d get if money wasn’t an object. The wacky Cube is a mashup of universal remote controls, Fire TV 4K streamer and Amazon Echo speaker. It comes with a remote but its keys are sparse and rudimentary: real device control happens via your voice. The Cube has an IR blaster to control your gear and a mic sensitive enough to hear your commands over the blare of music. On the downside, you’ll need to keep your old remotes around for many functions.This controlling device is often sold for as little as $80 or less, so definitely wait for a sale — or Prime Day — before buying it. Sarah Tew/CNET Logitech Harmony 650/665: $50 Best laptops for college students: We’ve got an affordable laptop for every student. Best live TV streaming services: Ditch your cable company but keep the live channels and DVR. Logitech Harmony Hub: $70 TVs Media Streamers Logitech Harmony See at Amazon Sarah Tew/CNET Sarah Tew Amazon Bluetooth Best Buy Google Logitech Roku Tags Read the Logitech Harmony Elite review See at Amazon 4 See at Best Buy Caavo’s Control Center is one of two non-Harmony remotes on this list and is also the second-cheapest, but there’s a catch. To get Caavo’s advanced features, you’ll need to shell out bank for the service fee. It costs $4 per month, $40 per year or $130 for the lifetime of the remote. Unlike Harmony, Caavo Control Center includes an HDMI switch in addition to the smart remote. You plug your stuff into the switch and it handles the rest, including automatically recognizing your gear during setup. Caavo has its own voice control system and onscreen display to help you find stuff to watch, the clicker itself is simple and elegant and the remote finder is gold. Like the hub-based Harmonys below, Caavo doesn’t require line of sight (the switch acts as the hub) and will also work with voice commands from Alexa and Google Home speakers. Logitech Harmony Express: $250 See at Amazon