Imagine a future where you are never truly alone. Even when your spouse is on a business trip or your children are away at summer camp, you will always have someone (or something) to talk to. In the morning, you could ask the microwave to heat up a bowl of oatmeal. In your car, you could tell your stereo to put on some ’90s music. And when you walk into the office, you could ask your smartphone, “What’s on my calendar today?”
This is increasingly the world the tech industry is building with a bloating portfolio of devices that can react to voice commands — and that the companies will be pitching to you even more in 2019.
The future will be on display next week at CES, a consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas that serves as a window into the year’s hottest tech trends. Artificially intelligent virtual assistants will take center stage as the most important tech topic, with companies big and small expected to showcase voice-controlled devices like robot vacuums, alarm clocks, refrigerators and car accessories. Most of these products will be powered by Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant, the two most popular artificially intelligent assistants, industry insiders said.
“A.I. will pervade the show,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association, which owns CES.
If this all sounds like a repeat of last year, that’s because much of it is. Artificial intelligence was 2018’s hottest tech trend, too. In other words, the tech industry is in a state of iteration rather than making leaps and bounds with something totally new.
Other tech trends that are progressing include the debut this year of fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, which will significantly quicken mobile internet speeds. Cybersecurity products for home networks are also proliferating, an important safeguard now that consumers own so many devices that can connect to the internet.
But as is often the case, there will also be plenty of talk in the coming week about overly optimistic tech that you would do best to sidestep for now. That’s because some of the most hyped technologies — especially self-driving cars — are so far from reality that you won’t see them in stores or dealerships anytime soon.
Here’s what to watch, and what to avoid.