Walk the crowded show floors of CES 2017 and you’ll quickly discover the breakout winner of this year’s consumer tech convention: Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa.
There were Alexa-compatible air purifiers, self-driving cars, even refrigerators. Huawei unveiled its Mate 9 smartphone, which it says is the first to come with Alexa pre-installed. Hyundai is integrating Alexa into its self-driving car, the Ioniq, so drivers can turn on their car with a voice command. Mattel introduced Aristotle, a voice-activated baby monitor that answers both parents’ and kids’ questions. And Whirlpool (WHR) announced many of its smart appliances will respond to Alexa commands starting in “early 2017.”
Amazon Echo is apparently always ready, always listening and always getting smarter. When you have Alexa, the intelligent assistant that powers Amazon Echo, entering millions of homes to do the shopping, answer questions, play music, report the weather and control the thermostat, there are bound to be glitches.
And so to Dallas, Texas, where a six-year-old girl made the mistake of asking Alexa: “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” Alexa promptly complied by ordering a $170 (£140) KidKraft doll’s house. The snafu snowballed when a San Diego TV station reported the story, using the “wake word” Alexa, which is the Amazon Echo equivalent of saying Candyman five times into the mirror. Several viewers called the station to complain that their own Alexa had woken up and ordered more doll’s houses in what turned into a thoroughly 21st-century comedy of consumer errors. And a bonanza day for KidKraft.
Slack is looking to become a wider productivity platform — and that includes getting as many developers as it can building applications that can figure out new and unique use cases for it.
That’s part of the reason it established the Slack Fund, which makes investments in startups that are building tools on top of Slack. Jump-starting that ecosystem is going to be critical as Slack, as a startup, needs to allocate its resources properly and let other people figure out new ways to use its slick work messaging platform. The company is announcing that it’s making 11 new investments today as part of its continuing effort to invest in the ecosystem.