Feedback
Tech

CES 2017: Alexa is the Word as Amazon’s AI Comes to More Devices

Get ready to make friends with more inanimate objects.

Alexa is the magic word at the Consumer Electronics Show this year as more companies roll out new experiences with Amazon's artificially intelligent assistant.

So far, more than 7,000 companies have integrated Alexa into their products.

On Wednesday, Ford announced Alexa would be an extra passenger in many of its vehicles, adding the technology into its Sync 3 infotainment unit.

Image: Ford and Amazon team up to offer consumers the ability to access their car from home, and call up other features from their vehicle via Alexa
Ford and Amazon have teamed up to offer drivers the ability to access their car from home and call up other features from their vehicle via Alexa. Ford

"We believe voice is the future, and this is particularly true in cars," said Steve Rabuchin, vice president of Amazon Alexa. "The ability to use your voice to control your smart home, access entertainment, manage to-do lists and more makes for an extraordinary driving experience."

Yes, this means Ford drivers will even be able to add items to their Amazon shopping lists while they're driving.

At a Ford dinner held Wednesday night, Rabuchin said he believes voice will drive even more of our interactions with our technology, but he said it likely won't entirely replace remote controls.

Instead of just saying, "Alexa," as you would to one of the speakers, drivers will have to tap a voice recognition button on the steering wheel.

Related: CES 2017: As Robots Learn to Become More Human, Are We More Robotic?

The experience is currently being beta tested with employees, and Ford expects to roll it out this summer to compatible vehicles.

In addition to making to do lists, drivers will be able to get directions, listen to audiobooks — even control smart home devices that are connected to Alexa, all before they even get home. That means the lighting and thermostat can be just right after you walk in from a long day at work.

Amazon first opened its Alexa platform to developers in 2015, allowing them to create new skills for the smart speaker.

"Not only is voice a major theme, but Alexa dominates the voice field right now," said Werner Goertz, a research director at Garner, specializing in personal and emerging technologies.

"Over 7,000 companies have implemented Alexa skills in their products," he told NBC News. "But even more than that, companies are starting to use Alexa voice services in their products," he said. "That enables product manufacturers to use the whole gamut of natural language recognition."

Elsewhere at CES, that progress was evident as Alexa continued to take over across various sectors: Clock radio maker iHome showed off an integrated bedside clock speaker system; FitBit will let you ask the smart speaker how you're progressing with your wellness goals; and yes, you can even speak to your refrigerator. LG released the InstaView, an Alexa-integrated refrigerator, which lets users tell the appliance to play music or to order more eggs.

The bottom line here, according to analysts: Get ready to make friends with more inanimate objects in 2017 and beyond.

"Even though Alexa is dominating, we haven't reached the tip of the iceberg yet," Goetz said.