“A visual tour of the world’s most important tech conference offers a window into the year’s trends, including next-generation wireless networks and the invasion of A.I.” B.X. Chen, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: CES 2019: It’s the Year of Virtual Assistants and 5G By B. X. Chen, The New York Times
“The show must go on. That sentiment couldn’t have been stronger this week at CES, the largest consumer electronics convention in the country. The conference, which brought more than 180,000 people to Las Vegas, was a reminder of what the tech industry is best at: being optimistic about itself. Who cares about the abysmal stock market and growing fears that we are sliding into a recession? Check out these virtual-reality headsets, self-driving cars and big-screen TVs.
Filippo Yacob, a tech entrepreneur who attended, was blasé about the state of the market. ‘The speed of progress and innovation happens at such a rapid pace that it’s not like it pulses with the stock market,’ said Mr. Yacob, whose company Primo Toys makes tech products for children. ‘It’s more like a bullet train.’
This year’s event was also slightly larger than the last, with more than 4,500 exhibitors sprawled across 2.7 million square feet. The conference offered a peek at the year’s hottest tech trends, including artificially intelligent virtual assistants, next-generation wireless networks and connected cars.
LG lured attendees into its giant booth with televisions that can be rolled up as if they were yoga mats. Wireless carriers and chip makers highlighted 5G, the next-generation cellular network arriving this year in a small number of cities with data speeds so zippy that devices can download an entire movie in seconds.
The most surprising news came when a host of tech companies announced they were working with Apple to bring some of the company’s content and virtual assistant capabilities to their devices.
Vizio, the TV maker, said its newer TVs would work with AirPlay, an Apple software feature for streaming video and audio content from an iPhone or Mac to a television screen. People will be able to speak to Siri on their iPhones to play content they had purchased from iTunes on the Vizio TVs. Samsung, Sony and LG announced similar partnerships with Apple. In the past, AirPlay and iTunes videos were mostly tied to Apple-made hardware like the Apple TV set-top box. Their expansion to third parties underlines Apple’s ambition to expand the revenue it generates from its internet content and services.
In a statement provided by Samsung, Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of internet software and services, said that with the expansion of iTunes and AirPlay, ‘iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home.’ Google erected an enormous outdoor booth to show off the multitude of devices that now work with Assistant, including smart watches, speakers and displays. The company said a billion devices now work with its assistant, up from 400 million last year. Google wants to make the Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life: in the home, in the car and on mobile devices.
‘When I walk down the aisle at Home Depot, will all the devices I might buy work with the Assistant?’ Nick Fox, a Google executive who oversees Assistant, said of items like smoke detectors and thermostats. ‘The answer is yes.’
The battle among virtual assistants is shaping up to be very different from past platform wars between tech companies because consumers will have more choices. Many of the smart gadgets at CES worked with multiple virtual assistants…Car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW showed off concepts of autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence and 5G wireless connections. But consumers won’t be able to buy self-driving vehicles from a dealership anytime soon, in part because companies still need much more data on how people drive cars. Smarter cars with features like built-in voice assistants to help people use maps, play music or get a sports update without taking their eyes off the road are available now, however.
If the economy does cool off, sales of cutting-edge gadgets will drop. Fast. But that didn’t faze people here. None of the CES attendees I spoke to expressed concern. Matt Strauss, who oversees Comcast’s Xfinity internet and cable service, was especially bullish about the year ahead. He said just about everything announced at CES required an internet connection, so that’s the last thing that people would cut off. ‘It’s become like oxygen,’ he said.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and the photos. Ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- CES offers a visual tour for consumers.
- Consumers don’t seem to care about the abysmal stock market.
- There was a battle among virtual assistants.
- Many of the smart gadgets worked with multiple virtual assistants.
- The smart home is already too complex with products from different brands.
- If the economy does cool off, sales of cutting-edge gadgets will drop.
- Car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW showed off concepts of autonomous vehicles.
- The speed of progress and innovation happens at a rapid pace.
- Google wants to make the Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life.
- Matt Strauss, who oversees Comcast’s Xfinity internet was especially bullish about the year ahead.
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
Amazon also had/have a large presence on/at the show. It filled a/an large conference room at/by the Venetian hotel with/on dozens of product/productsthat/this work with Alexa, including an/a Audi car, a/an motorcycle helmet and a/the stereo system.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Google ___an enormous outdoor ___to show off the ___of devices that now work with Assistant, including ___speakers and displays. The company said a ___devices now work with its assistant, up from 400___last year. Google wants to make the ___ Assistant the ___point of a consumer’s___: in the home, in the car and on mobile devices.
WORD LIST:focal, life, watches, erected, smart, booth, million, multitude, billion,Assistant,
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- The opening paragraph in the article begins, “The show must go on. That sentiment couldn’t have been stronger this week at CES, the largest consumer electronics convention in the country. The conference, which brought more than 180,000 people to Las Vegas, was a reminder of what the tech industry is best at: being optimistic about itself.”What is the tech industry optimistic about? Do you agree with this optimism? Explain why or why not.
- The article states, “Google erected an enormous outdoor booth to show off the multitude of devices that now work with Assistant, including smart watches, speakers and displays. The company said a billion devices now work with its assistant, up from 400 million last year.” Why is it important to Google that the average consumer’s devices work with the Assistant?
- Are there any products that seem useless and a waste of money?Why?
- With your group members choose the products that you think consumers will buy.
- Which products would you buy? Provide reasons why.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.