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The age of robots and automated personal assistants is upon us, with a universe of smart devices recently estimated at more than 6 billion. The virtual cavalcade of robots and artificial intelligence-powered technology introduced by Google, Amazon and others is becoming all the rage.
Smart home provider Vivint is entering the fray with its own AI solution designed especially for connected homes. Sky is a virtual assistant that Vivint is billing as the central cog in an automated home.
Introduced at CES in Las Vegas this week, the system will regulate home security, lighting and temperature to create what the company called a "single, cohesive experience."
It all begs the question: How does Sky differ from Amazon's Alexa or Echo, or Google's own smart-home solution, Home?
Those devices "are really good at voice recognition," Jeremy Warren, Vivint's chief technology officer, told CNBC in a recent interview. Warren said he uses an Alexa device himself.
Sky, however, is a "smart home assistant [that's] about understanding what's going on in your home," Warren said. "It's predictive, and tracks when you leave, when you come back, when you go on vacation. This is about the home and having the home help you manage it."
In fact, Warren boasted that Sky is part of a modern-age promise left unfulfilled by "The Jetsons," the 1960s cartoon that depicted an idealized, fully automated society.
"If we really wanted to we could call this Rosie," Warren joked, referring to the Jetsons' robotic housekeeper. "It's that robot for the home but it's not hidden. It's that experience we've been promised for decades on TV but nobody's delivered it."
The application is powered by AI, providing the user with a set of recommendations to enhance how your abode operates. Among other things, Sky will lock doors, arm a security system and adjust the thermostat with an eye toward energy conservation.
The app can even tailor itself to the user's daily routine, intuitively knowing when to make adjustments based on the time of day — learning how to operate on its own once it has a grasp of a homeowner's preferences. Vivint will offer Sky to consumers as part of a customized financing package, or a no-contract option that costs $39.99 – $49.99 per month.
Sky operates "based on your interactions," Warren said. "It's the equivalent of an exec assistant for your phone, understands your patterns of activity, and interacts with you to learn what you want to be done. It can take much more control of the wheel that's very intuitive for the user."
Vivint's Sky is entering an increasingly crowded and sophisticated market where automated assistants are becoming more multifaceted. One of the devices garnering buzz at CES this week was LG's Hub, another Alexa-like voice controlled unit that operates almost like a robot. Meanwhile, Samsung lifted the curtain on an entire suite of smart products at the tech confab, including a talking refrigerator and a custom-fitted television.
Yet Vivint argued that with the leaps in technology and the demands of consumers, voice activated devices are no longer sufficient by themselves.
"Voice for an app is just a communication mechanism," said Matt Eyring, Vivint's chief strategy officer. "We're moving to a world where the home is telling you what to do … and help manage what's going on. It's unique."