My biggest takeaway from last week’s CES show in Vegas is that as 2018 begins, voice assistants, especially Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are the hottest things going. Similar tech is offered by Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, but they lag far behind. Just about everyone seems convinced that voice interfaces are here to stay and will supplant physical interfaces (e.g., touchpads and keyboards) in most applications from steering wheels to cookbooks. 39 million Americans (16%) now own a smart speaker. 11 percent of Americans own an Amazon Echo, and 4 percent own a Google Home product. Here’s an overview of almost everything Google Home can do, and here for Amazon’s Alexa.

I am often asked which to try. The answer depends on your desired applications and your personal tech ecosystem. For instance, though Siri lags in many ways (including a required pause between when you say “Hey, Siri” and when you can complete your request), if you’re mainly looking for home automation (especially if you’re very concerned about the security of your system), I recommend Siri (and the associated Apple HomeKit). For general inquiry stuff like news, Wikipedia, games and recipes, I’d go with Google. For shopping, it’s Alexa. (Major points to Alexa for being able to rename it “Computer,” making me feel like Scotty on Star Trek whenever I use it!) Again, all of this is trumped by your current ecosystem. If your phones are Android and office tools Google (and perhaps you use Chromecast), try Google Home. If you have Amazon Prime and use Amazon Prime Music, go with Alexa. If you have an iPhone and use iTunes, you should probably go with Apple, hoping that the HomePod will be released soon. (Without that, unlike Google Home and Amazon Alexa which are constantly listening [creepy?], Siri passively listens for its wake-up word only if your Apple device is docked or plugged in.)

This is the HomeKit App on my iPad. If You Have an iPhone or iPad, You Already Have It.

As a case study, without TOO much trouble, I now have my home set up so that at wake up time in the morning (at an appointed hour or just before sunrise on weekends), Alexa starts playing some of my favorite Beatles songs, just loudly enough to gently wake me up.

 

Bedroom Wall. Morning Alarm: Alexa Playing The Beatles. The Blue Ring Indicates She’s Active.

Eventually, I mumble through the pillows: “Hey Siri” (pause) “Good morning” to my iPhone docked in a clock radio charger next to my bed, and Apple turns on the lights in my bedroom (at 40%) and bathroom (100%), starts my coffee and turns on a couple of lights in the kitchen. Apple (via Ecobee) also raises the temperature on my main floor to 72 degrees.

Bedside. “Hey Siri, Good Morning.”

When I make it out to the kitchen, I say “OK Google, good morning,” and Google gives me the day’s weather forecast followed by news from the sources I have selected (NPR, CNET and BBC).

Kitchen. “OK Google, Good Morning” Triggers Weather & News Reports

Breakfast done, as I pass through the living room I say, “Computer, it’s work time,” and Alexa turns off the lights on the main floor, turns on the ones in my office, starts some chamber music playing softly at my desk, and turns the thermostats up in the office and down on the main floor. In the summer, the temperature ups and downs automatically adjust for the outside temps. One of my favorite things about all three systems is that all commands can be given in a normal conversational voice without shouting.

Living Room. Inconspicuously Resting on a Shelf, Alexa Hears, “Computer, It’s Work Time.”

If I leave the house during the day, Siri senses that I’m out of the range of my WiFi, locks the pedestrian door to my garage, turns off all of the lights in the house (except porch lights), and to save energy turns all of my thermostats to a cooler temp in the winter or warmer in the summer. When I return to WiFi range, my thermostats go back to their standard programming and if it’s after sunset a couple of lights turn on so I’m not entering a dark house.

I have not yet integrated my Apple calendar, to-do list or contacts into the Google or Alexa apps. There’s always more to do.

In My Office. Google and Alexa Awaiting Commands. When I Get to My Desk, Chamber Music is Already Playing through My B&W A7.

I do all of this is with the entry level models: Siri, Google’s Home Mini and Amazon’s Echo Dot. For better quality sound, I have them working with external speakers and my TV (“Hey Google, play season 2, episode 3 of ‘Stranger Things'”). Almost all of this could be done with any one of the devices. I use them all just as a learning tool.

I’ll Finish Installation of this Echo Dot in My Bathroom this Afternoon. The Flush Wall Mounting Shown Here and in the Bedroom is Not Necessary, But I Like It.

Back to CES: hundreds of vendors announced their current and coming support for Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Voice-controlled digital assistance will be HUGE in 2018. Perhaps the best news is that even with the post-holiday price increases, the entry level models from Google (Home Mini) and Alexa (Echo Dot) are only $50. Both are very simple to install and use. If you have an iPhone with Siri, you’re already on your way.

 

  • I mentioned Microsoft’s Cortana at the top of this post. For five reasons, I expect Cortana’s days are numbered. 1. Several PC makers announced at CES that Alexa will be built into their new machines. 2. Back in August, Microsoft announced that Alexa can be accessed through Cortana. 3. No new Cortana devices were announced at CES. 4. While instantly available on most Windows PCs, almost no one uses it. I messed with it for about 15 minutes once, wasn’t impressed, and haven’t gone back 5. And then there’s the marketing. Do you recognize this as the Cortana logo?

 

  • From Amy Spooner of University of Michigan Law School, a very long but good overview of the applications of AI in the practice of law. Many sources are cited and it’s replete with stats. Seems clients are driving a lot of this. Again, they want “better, faster, cheaper.”

 

  • From Blank Rome, “On October 17, 2017, San Francisco-based “EquBot” announced that it is launching an ETF powered by artificial intelligence (“AI”). Through IBM’s AI platform known as Watson, the ETF will seek to mirror what a team of human equity research analysts do on a daily basis.” More details here.

 

  • Here’s a fun graph from Artificial Lawyer. It shows the attitudes toward AI of some of the folks who have been vocal about it (Musk, Hawking, Gates and Zuckerberg among others), and how their opinions have evolved.

 

  • Here’s yet another good overview of what AI will be doing for Marketing in 2018. All of this is adaptable to Legal Marketing. (It mentions that “67 million voice-assisted devices will be in use in the U.S. by 2019”.)

 

  • I love this idea! AI is all about the data, right? And your biggest pile of data is your firm’s backups, right? So why not put that data to use as an AI learning tool; instead of it just sitting there, put AI data crawlers to work learning from it. It’s an awesome, but overlooked training set!

 

  • AI by Alibaba and Microsoft have independently surpassed human readers in a widely accepted test of reading comprehension.

 

  • Finally for today: When one gets into really futurist AI stuff the subject of transferring our “meat minds” into more durable technological form often comes up. This post is a wonderful (i.e., scientific but fun too) exploration of that possibility. Enjoy! (Some NSFW language.)
  • This discussion of “Cyber security and AI predictions 2018” from Information Age is very relevant to law firms. It discusses the many motivations, vectors and targets involved. AI is mentioned as a necessary defense mechanism (as well as potential miscreant).

 

  • If you’re looking for a very brief intro to AI and its application to legal work, you can’t do much better than this short piece from Thomson Reuters. And here’s a VERY similar piece from Above the Law.

 

 

 

 

  • Governments involved in AI:

US (from Sheppard Mullin): Seeking foreign investors for your tech startup? Congress says, “not so fast.”

France to vet takeovers of firms in data and artificial intelligence.

– “Europe plans to spend €1 billion on supercomputers as it looks to keep pace with the US and China.” “…to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence and build the future’s everyday applications in areas like health, security or engineering.”

 

  • From CES:

– I love this: a security camera that, to protect your privacy, looks away when you get home.

– The NYT has dubbed this year’s event, “The Year of AI.” And The Economist says, Artificial intelligence dominated the Consumer Electronics Show.”

– This article discusses the ways tech being presented at CES may impact the insurance industry. “2018 is another year for further disruption in the insurance industry. It seems that most personal consumer tech can become an InsurTech that can change how we purchase and use insurance going forward.”

– AIcorrect Translator from Babel Technology in Beijing is getting attention. “It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish, major languages like English are further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.”

 

  • Here’s the ALM overview of the annual Citibank Client Advisory and here’s the full report. It’s a “must read.” There’s a good paragraph about AI which leads with “The development of client-facing artificial intelligence solutions will also continue to be a market force.”

 

  • Artificial Lawyer reports: “Leading Swiss law firm Meyerlustenberger Lachenal (MLL) has joined global professional services giant PwC in selling automated contract templates via PartnerVine in a move that shows the ‘industrialisation’ of the legal sector is now truly speeding up.”

 

  • Press release: “Dickson Minto has selected Luminance as its artificial intelligence platform for due diligence after a competitive selection process and pilot exercise. The Luminance platform has the ability to quickly understand and prioritise documents in a data room.”

 

  • I like the way Orrick  is presenting its tech expertise, including this “Profile in Innovation” interview of Nicholas Thompson, editor of Wired, by Annette Hurst. It includes legal issues related to AI, blockchain and more.

 

  • Foley partner Andrew Hurst is quoted in a Washington Lawyer article, “AI & the Legal Workplace,” about the evolution of technology in the legal field. Hurst said the firm’s increasing reliance on AI in document review and related tasks has reduced the need for junior and mid-level associates. David Tanenholz of Tanenholz & Associates, Jeanette Derby of Legal E Employment Partners and Gary Swisher, president of the ALA, are also extensively quoted.

 

  • Foley’s very active auto industry blog (“Dashboard Insights”) has an interesting post titled, “The Dawn of Self-Driving Rideshares Has Already Arrived.”

 

  • The Financial Times has named its 2017 Top 10 Legal Innovators in North America. It’s great to see recognized important A2J players (Stephen Manning, legal director of the Innovation Law Lab; and Joshua Browder, founder of DoNotPay), and some of the law firms who are taking AI most seriously.

 

  • Here’s more from The British Academy and the Royal Society on the need for data governance/regulation.

 

  • Justin Reilly, head of customer experience innovation for Verizon Fios, has some interesting thoughts on AI in this interview with Knowledge@Wharton. Among his conclusions: “Probably 80% of the value creation in AI is going to be in B2B or large scale infrastructure, and about 20% in customer value creation.”

 

  • Fake news: Yesterday I mentioned that Microsoft has stepped up its use of AI in its search engine, Bing. Among the new features is “one that summarizes the two opposing sides of contentious questions, and another that measures how many reputable sources are behind a given answer. Tired of delivering misleading information when their algorithms are gamed by trolls and purveyors of fake news, Microsoft and its tech-company rivals have been going out of their way to show they can be purveyors of good information—either by using better algorithms or hiring more human moderators.”

 

  • In 2018, Korn Ferry sees increased use of AI in recruiting, but not less for recruiters to do.

 

  • Here’s a a very accessible explanation of blockchain, bitcoin and related tech.

 

  • It’s Friday, so here’s a really out-of-this-world AI story:  has used Google’s  to discover a record-tying eighth  circling a Sun-like star 2,545 light-years from Earth, marking the first finding of an eight-planet solar system like ours.

  • According to Artificial Lawyer, “Global insurance law firm, Clyde & Co, has launched a special consultancy division dedicated to helping clients with smart legal contract and blockchain technology”

 

  • Here’s a Q&A with Luis Salazar re Salazar Law’s experience using ROSS to do legal research. Spoiler: GC’s love it.

 

  • Last week, there was a “Nordic Legal Tech Day” in Stockholm. The keynote was: Richard Tromans’ “Legal AI – Where it Stands Today and What it Means For Lawyers and Clients.” This stuff is everywhere!

 

  • Speaking of conference keynotes, in preparation for next year’s EU General Data Protection Regulation, this Wednesday the UK’s Law Society will hold a conference titled “Legal services in a data driven world.” The keynote will be by Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer, The Envisioners Ltd.

 

  • Thomson Reuters is one of the best and most easily integrated sources of Big Data for law firms. They have just upgraded their CLEAR online investigations suite to include data re business and organizational to complete identity verification tasks, including risk evaluation and business vetting. Details here.

 

 

  • Algorithmic stock trading has been around for a long time, but this weekend there were a couple of good articles on the subject in case you’d like a refresher or an update on the subject.

 

  • There’s a LOT of money being invested on AI. This article from Barron’s has some thoughts on the subject.

 

  • This very readable essay by Danny Guillory and published by GE argues that we need to get focused on AI’s sensitivity to diversity in all of its forms, including ethnicity, gender, ,age, culture, tradition, and religion.

 

  • This article from Forbes presents “Five Reasons Why Corporations May Be Slow To Adopt AI.” They all apply to law firms.

 

  • In the mood for futurist speculation about AI? Then check out this summary of Max Tegmark’s new book: “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

 

  • Just for fun: A History of Artificial Intelligence in Top 10 Landmarks.