In 2013, Spike Jonze wrote, directed and produced a romantic science-fiction drama that won him five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Jonze carried home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, won many other coveted awards worldwide, received widespread critical acclaim, and grossed over $47 million worldwide on a production budget of $23 million.
The move was ‘Her’. The film followed Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man living in futuristic Los Angeles, who develops a relationship with Samantha, an intelligent computer operating system personified through a female voice (Scarlett Johansson).
Come 2017, seems we don’t have to wait for the sometime-in-future Los Angeles to have a ‘Her’ version of our own. Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa is emerging as the superstar at Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the annual tech gathering in Las Vegas.
CES is a closely-watched testbed for the latest industry trends. Alexa is featuring in TVs, cars, fridges. And what do you know? This voice-activated artificial intelligence tool may signal a breakthrough moment for the smart technology.
This comes at a time when tech giants Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft are competing hard to develop the most sophisticated connected assistant.
The way Alexa has swept aside all competition at CES 2017, Amazon may be winning the race.
It may also be the sign that smart home hubs — heralded for years as a coming consumer tech revolution but slow to catch on in the marketplace — have finally come of age.
The Daily Mail, UK, said Amazon’s Alexa is integrated into the LG smart refrigerator, allowing consumers to “talk” to their fridge to find out what food is on its shelves and order fresh groceries.
Alexa features on three different Chinese television brands made by Tongfang Global Ltd.
There is more. Alexa will be present on Huawei’s new flagship smartphone and integrated into Inrix’s Open Car platform for connected vehicles. Ford also announced this week it would integrate Alexa in its on-board electronics.
Alexa made its debut as the heart of the Amazon Echo — a family of internet-connected speakers that answer questions, run apps, and let people get weather reports or order goods on Amazon.
The technology was first seen as a curiosity.
But Amazon claims it has sold “millions” of the Echo devices — with a big spike over the recent holiday period. The Daily Mail says that by opening the system to third-party developers, Amazon is making big strides toward boosting its presence in the consumer electronics space, say analysts.
Now Alexa can be used to play music, order food, summon an Uber ride, dim the lights or provide directions, among other things.
Chinese electronics giant Lenovo meanwhile used the tech show to unveil its own smart assistant speaker. This, too, is powered by Alexa.
An industry analyst said Alexa is becoming the de facto central point for all these devices. The devices can’t talk to each other but they can talk to Alexa. That puts Amazon in a powerful position.
Earlier, Apple had made waves with artificial intelligence and voice assistant Siri. Now we see vocal computing replacing the screen.
This isn’t science fiction any more. This is real. In the Hollywood big hit ‘Her’, the male lead Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, converses with the artificial intelligence operating software, which has a female voice, and whom he calls Samantha.
As Theodore converses with Samantha on the earpiece, he chuckles, he laughs, he enjoys himself. He connects with her and, in all senses of the word, bares himself. Scarlett Johansson lent her voice to the AI software. With the inflections of her voice, from cheery and flirty to husky, sexy and confused, their relationship acquired worrying normalcy. The movie became a heart-warming love story.
Is this what lonely hearts may move to, as science fiction takes real position in our lives? Will Alexa be the fictional Samantha for some? As science gets more interesting, so does life.