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We are the remote control of the future

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Jefferson Graham runs down the winners and losers of CES 2018.
USA TODAY

LAS VEGAS — In our home, every time I try to talk to Alexa or Siri, my wife usually responds by saying, “What?”

And that’s now, in 2018. I can only imagine what life is going to be like in the coming years. We humans are going to have to find a new way to understand each other.

Because now that CES 2018 is wrapped, no new one individual product stands out, but one big theme does—voice computing.

Like it or not, most new tech and home products we purchase in the coming months will have voice controls. We’re talking everything from TVs, speakers and cars to refrigerators, stoves and even the shower and toilet

We are the remote control to our future. So work on your diction, folks!

Try this morning routine out:

“Alexa, turn off the alarm, Alexa play my favorite playlist from iHeartRadio, Alexa, ask Moen to turn on the shower at 98 degrees, Alexa I’m out of soap, order some new Ivory”—and this is before you even say good morning to the person you might be living with.

Questions: if this is indeed the future, please, let me know how to differentiate beyond “Good morning Ruth,” and “Alexa, what’s the weather like today?” Do we address the robot computer in a different tone? 

More: What’s flying at CES: Drones, airplanes, helicopters and cool gadgets

More: CES 2018: The coolest tech you have to see

There wasn’t much talk about how to live with these devices at CES, beyond the thrill of using them to do things we’ve taken for granted with our hands for so many years. The shower command from Moen seems like an awfully expensive luxury—starting at $1,200—but we do love the idea of having heated water just right before we get in, and not having to monkey around with the knobs. 

Asking an oven to pre-heat at 425 degrees is fine. Voice doesn’t save any steps, but that said, I never want to go back to manually playing music selections. “Hey Google, play my Adele playlist,” is quicker and gets the job done, with no clicks. 

Voice controls are here. I just worry about what happens when a bunch of us are in the room and we’re all barking commands at the same time. 

 

Elsewhere in tech this week

Facebook. The social network announced sweeping changes to what items show up in your news feed. In a nutshell, Facebook is going back to its roots, trying to show you stuff from your friends, not news items or items parading as news. The refined algorithm will put most weight on posts you comment on and share. 

Batterygate, part 2: A few weeks ago, Apple admitted to using software to slow down iPhones to keep them in sync with declining batteries. After a consumer outcry, Apple said it would replace older batteries at a $50 discount, for $29.99. But too many have signed up. This week Apple delayed iPhone 6 Plus battery replacements until March-April, due to excessive demand. However, batteries for the 6S, 7 and 7 Plus and SE are more readily available. 

Logan Paul gets dumped by YouTube. Sort of. The controversial YouTube celebrity, whose video of a suicide victim got quickly yanked by the network, saw his preferred ad status taken away by YouTube, which also dropped a project that was to star him on Red, YouTube’s subscription service. What it didn’t do was sever ties with Paul totally. His channel is still up and running with 15.7 million subscribers, who are welcomed with a video called “Why 2017 was the best year of my life.”

 

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

 

What tech gear I brought to CES. As we began the week, I reported about all the crazy gear I toted with me to Las Vegas, to cover the CES. I love that Peak design Camera Clip to attach the GoPro to the backpack. 

Best of CES Innovation Award Winners. We run down the list of 20 tech products the Consumer Technology Association honored with “Innovation” awards. 

What’s cool @CES? Self-driving luggage. “What’s the coolest thing you saw at CES?” people ask me all the time. It’s hard to top luggage that moves automatically. 

Review: Samsung press conference a dud. The South Korean giant did not put its best foot forward. 

Review: The amazing LG booth. Samsung’s South Korean rival had the best booth of the show, with an awesome 243 OLED TV wall that was jaw dropping. My audio review. 

Women and drones. We chat with Wendy Erickson Anstine and Taylor Mitcham of Women and Drones about the need to get more women involved with drones.

Facebook’s news feed changes. Our audio report about the new look to the Facebook news feed. 

Driving home from Las Vegas and stopping in Baker. We began with a car ride to CES and end with the ride home, and the fun photo stops en route.

Look for me on Twitter (@jeffersongraham) and Facebook and if you haven’t checked out the daily #TalkingTech podcast yet, now’s the time. You can listen on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to online audio. 

 

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