Elgan: Voice, gestures dominate CES

The biggest trend from CES: Next-generation interfaces are here, big time.

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Nuance also rolled out its Dragon TV platform, which is designed to enable viewers to change channels, find specific shows and even find types of shows by simply talking. Nuance didn't announce any partners, but I'm sure it will have many by next year.

Nuance also announced a 10-year partnership with a company called Gracenote to develop systems that let people use voice commands to find and control music and videos on mobile devices, in cars and on TVs.

Nuance also unveiled an Android version of its Dragon Go app, which had previously been available only on iOS.

But Nuance wasn't the only company talking about speech.

The two largest makers of televisions, Samsung and LG, announced voice-command features that will enable you to talk to your TV and have it do your bidding. These systems replace the remote -- with another remote that's essentially a microphone with a few buttons on it.

Vlingo announced a product for TV makers called Virtual Assistant, which brings voice interaction to television much like Nuance's Dragon TV does.

LG's new Smart Refrigerator also features a voice recognition system. That's right: You can talk to your fridge, and your fridge talks back.

AT&T, Ford, Lenovo, Parrot and several other companies also announced products, technologies and partnerships to bring voice commands to all kinds of devices.

3. In-the-air gestures

Samsung and LG announced new "smart TVs" that, among other things, are capable of responding to gestures. Instead of clicking on a clicker, you talk and wave your arms to change the channel and find programs to watch.

Intel demonstrated laptops that respond to gestures -- a feature that's useful for games and productivity apps alike.

One of the few bits of news in the cringe-inducing keynote by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was a date for the Kinect-for-Windows product I told you about in November: Feb. 1. The new product will enable Windows PC users to use gestures instead of some keyboard-and-mouse inputs.

A Two-Way TV system for Kinect introduced by Ballmer also lets users interact with special TV programs with gestures.

As gadgets get voice and gestures, cars become gadgets. At CES, Audi showed off new gesture-driven interfaces for its cars. Mercedes-Benz talked about a new integrated dash system called DICE (for Dynamic and Intuitive Control Experience) that involves augmented reality with gesture control. Like many of the gesture interfaces, the Audi technology uses a camera and software to interpret hand-waving.

Smaller companies, such as Sharpnow, Ceva and SoftKinetic also introduced new gesture-based technologies.

Meanwhile, while CES was going on, the website Patently Apple reported that Apple filed patents for gesture-based systems that would bring Kinect-like gestures to iOS devices.

To me, CES was not about smart TVs or copycat MacBook Air clones. CES 2012 was the show that ushered in an amazing new future where we will interact with all our electronics by touching, talking and gesturing.

Want more on CES? See our roundup of everything you need to know from CES and our interactive chart of top CES product launches.

Follow our staffers live from CES in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12 on Twitter @Computerworld/CES or via our CES 2012 RSS feed.

Plus, check out our live blog from CES.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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