VA, the virtual assistant, is a software app that helps you arrange your digital life. It’s another step in lazy and the IT war for VA control is on. Amazon presented Alexa.Amazon, Amazon’s VA was a top seller over Christmas 2017, and next week, Alphabet presents Google Assistant in CES 2018. (Consumer Electronics Show).

So, what is VA? and do we actually need it?

A virtual assistant is a code that places itself into every digital asset we own that has an electronic interface. This can be a TV, a security system, our cars PC, smartphones, refrigerators and even a pocket watch. If an item has an electronic interface that allows it to connect its controls via Bluetooth, WiFi or any other mode, you can place a VA app into it.
In fact, the ever-increasing development of computer controllers has made entire industries hostage to software development companies. Electronics manufacturers and electronic components are all being developed with software interface access incorporated into their hardware design. Global companies from China such as Baidu, Huawei, and Alibaba will sit alongside US companies Amazon, Apple and Google, and communications giants such as Huawei and Apple. This makes 2018 CES an important occasion since it makes CES a major industry sounding board where thousands of participants will present their latest developments with the hope of conquering a global market or being snapped up by a giant.

A major attraction this year will be the continuing development of AI, where the reduction in electronic components has made may electronics cheaper to manufacture and sell, the focus is now transferred to what functions the gadgets offer. AI has been a leading focus science since the 1950’s, and AI software is evolving side by side with realistic interface composites. The war for reality is developing alongside the war for virtual reality, and as digital imaging is reliant on processing power, the real-life presentation is reliant on how AI interfaces with “muscular” movements and digital voice inflections.

With the continuing struggle between Google and Amazon for digital control over our lives, more and more devices are becoming remote controlled. Add to this the issues of connectivity, how device communicate within a local network and how we gain access to the internet, and we are looking at the development of 5G tech. 5G standards are now being confirmed, and in the coming Winter Olympics in South Korea, we are going to get our first glance at Qualcomm and Intel’s faster and cheaper WiFi.

With all this said, one troubling issue still arises from all this digitization of life, especially with the recent revelation of Intel, AMD and Arm’s inherent flaw that opens the way for Meltdown and Spectre hackers. How will we protect ourselves from a life hack, where someone can take control of every electronic gadget we own and use? How can we trust devices we buy for simple jobs such as keeping our home cool or managing the gear changes in our car, when the hardware is flawed, and networks can be hacked? The answer is unfortunately simple, invest in high-quality security software.

Personal take: The cost of technology actually makes life harder to manage, the easier we try to make our lives, the harder we need to work to maintain it. Every new technology costs more, and many people will buy the new tech with a credit card, in installments. As time goes by, you find your house cluttered with “old” devices, replaced sometimes in less than a year with a new device. This is Dante’s vision of Hell’s horizon, the faster we speed up our technology and digital evolution, the further we get from our simple happy lives. Here is an interesting solution: Make a list of all life supporting needs, such as food, electricity, water, education, clothing, transport, and communications. Now add to that extras such as dining out, watching entertainment, and travelling for a holiday. Add to that your expenditure on technology and the devices you buy to maintain your life, such as the difference in the price of a refrigerator or AC based on the technological advancement they provide beyond their basic functions. Notice the red line, that’s the line you draw between necessities and extra’s, a necessity is basic food compare to dining out or buying products you don’t really need on a daily basis. Extra’s can be a TV that provides 500 functions of which you only really use 3 all the time, or a watch that gives you access to twenty different operations, when all you need is the time.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

Why do we need to compete with the latest device constantly?

Why is impressing someone else that has no impact on our lives and will never live or support us, be so important?

When was the last time you sat at a family dinner, and none of the diners were busy tapping away at their smartphones?