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Did Google Assistant win CES 2018?

Google launched a strong counterattack to Amazon’s Alexa, The Verge’s Ashley Carman says on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask.

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Hey Google billboard at CES Recode / Dan Frommer

Last year, the only standout products at the Consumer Electronics Show were Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, and all the speakers it would run on. This year at CES, Google fired back.

“Google definitely has a chance of defeating Amazon here, even if they had a bit of a late start,” The Verge’s Ashley Carman said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, citing the broad popularity of Alphabet-owned apps. “Google revoked permission for the [Amazon] Echo Show to display YouTube content and guess what? Those new Google displays that have the assistant are going to be able to play YouTube content.”

Speaking with her Verge colleague Lauren Goode and Recode’s Kara Swisher, Carman acknowledged that the biggest hurdle facing the Google Assistant — and the panoply of third-party hardware it will work with — is concern about privacy. Like Alexa, the Assistant is said to only listen to what you say when you prime it with a phrase, “Hey Google,” but it’s still a microphone in your home that could listen to everything.

“I don’t have any of these smart speakers in my house,” Carman said. “I used to be a cybersecurity reporter, [so] I’m a little bit weird about companies having cameras in my home. But I also use Google for everything — I use Gmail, I use Google Maps. Google has this information on us already. Whereas, if i was using Alexa, this is all a new thing for Amazon.”

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On the new podcast, the trio also talked about the unusual rainfall that hit Las Vegas right in the middle of CES, the latest wave of “beauty tech” and the severe shortage of women among CES’s keynote speakers. And Goode reflected on how her opinions about the annual tech trade show — loved by some, loathed by others — have evolved over the years.

“I’ve been coming to CES for eight years now,” Goode said. “There’s kind of a bell curve: When I started, I was really green, and then I hit this peak jaded moment where I was like, ‘Nothing here ever ships!’”

“And now I’ve eased back down into this place where I’m like, ‘It’s kind of cool that all these people come here and they’re so excited to show off all of this stuff,’” Goode added. “Some of it’s weird and it’s gadgety and, yes, some of it’s never gonna ship — but some of it does.”

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