Google Assistant and Alexa Were Invisible and Everywhere at CES 2021
Amazon and Google opted to skip joining the list of exhibitors at this year’s all-digital CES, but their respective voice assistants arguably erased what would normally be a glaring gap in the event’s list. Alexa and Google Assistant each appeared over and over as close to 2,000 companies showcased their new products.
This year, the CES exhibitors included around 700 startups from 37 countries and ran the gamut from brand-new companies to international tech giants like Samsung, Intel, and LG. CES adapted to its virtual setting remarkably well, which might be why Amazon and Google skipping the event was not commented upon more frequently. It’s not as though there weren’t big stories emerging from other companies. COVID-19 and its impact naturally made up the bulk of the discussion, whether the dangers of lax cybersecurity or media and marketing strategies for new technology.
Still, the sheer number of new smart devices and audio interactive creations meant that Alexa and Google Assistant were mentioned at least in passing all the time. Both assistants popped up repeatedly, whether in the new smart home devices by Samsung and Cync, formerly C by GE, new wearables like the wireless earbuds from JBL, or the Aromeo Sense, a bedside device that uses lights, music, and special scents to help calm users and let them sleep better. There were some exclusive too. Only Alexa can run LG’s new voice-enabled refrigerator or Sharp, smart microwaves, while Google Assistant is the sole voice AI for D-Link’s new smart home water sensor kit and the upcoming smart TVs by Sony and TCL.
Despite the ubiquity of their voice assistants, Amazon and Google skipping CES is still a big deal. Both companies have been involved in the event for a long time, each year coming up with new ways to grab the attention of people passing by. Google boasted a giant escape room game last year and an entire theme park the year before. Amazon had its own flashy attractions, including a trivia game played inside Las Vegas taxis last year and an entire room dedicated to devices with Alexa the year before.
And it’s not as though Google and Amazon haven’t had plenty to announce this month. Google Assistant announced it can now go incognito with its new Guest Mode, while Amazon debuted a new platform for brands to build custom voice assistants supported by Alexa. Both companies may make returns to CES next year, assuming that it goes back to a physical location in Las Vegas as planned. But, this year has decisively proven that Alexa and Google Assistant no longer require active boosting at the show to play a part. Attendees can hear the voice assistants everywhere.