What’s in it for Lawyers at CES 2017

Kuri - the robot for negligent parents.We’re barely into the new year, which means it’s time for the planet (or the developed world, at least) to get its collective geek on and marvel at the latest electronics at CES.

If you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade or so, CES is the Consumer Electronics Show.  It’s where newfangled gadgets debut, TV manufacturers try to convince us all that we need to upgrade from our hi-def sets, and techno-hucksters attempt to convince us, yet again, that virtual reality and smartwatches have truly, finally arrived, for real this time.

So what’s in it for lawyers?

Well, only the cutest little robot you ever did see!

His name is Kuri, and you can find him on heykuri.com.  Interestingly enough, another “robot” debuted named Olly, and you can find him on heyolly.com.  (My advice to anyone building a robot is to give it a name and then register a website called “heyrobotname.com.”)

Olly sits on a table, kind of like a robotic head in a jar.  It moves more than an Amazon Echo, which is like saying it moves more than a corpse. Adorable, precious Kuri, on the other hand, wanders around your house spreading happiness.

In fact, checking out the website for Kuri, you get the impression that the robot is designed with negligent parents specificially in mind.  There’s a picture of a child with a book in her lap, sitting alone with the robot in a seemingly deserted house. The website also boasts that Kuri can read your kid a bedtime story.

Seriously, though…

We’re in a beginning phase where robots act like personal assistants. Voice user interfaces are transforming interactions with machines, as graphical user interfaces did decades ago.  Google Home recently debuted, but so far, Alexa is in the lead as the platform of choice for technology companies to build upon.

Anyone who’s tried both Siri and Alexa understand why—Amazon’s product is in a completely different league.  Using Siri after using Alexa is like talking to a neanderthal after talking to a Rhodes Scholar—she just appears primitive.

In addition to Alexa’s AI superiority, Amazon’s developer tools for the platform have enabled widespread usage of it.  In other words, software engineers like me can program against Alexa the same way we can program against Dropbox or Quickbooks.  As a result, many of the AI-devices on display at CES are using Alexa to power their communication, and you’re going to start seeing her used more and more across all variety of technology.

It’s not going to be long before voice user interfaces aid with legal work. “Alexa, file my pleading for the Homocidal Robot matter” you might say in the future.  “Alexa, bill 1.2 hours to the Virtual Reality fraud case.”  This is no joke: Interacting with natural language processing is in our future.  Perhaps voice will be the core way we interact with machines.

Voice user interfaces bring up legal issues in and of themselves.  In order to work, they need to constantly be aware of their environment via perpetually snooping microphones.  If you add a visual component to home robots, they will soon be able to see and hear everything going on in your house.  We are already seeing law enforcement subpoena records for Alexa. This constant surveillance will raise privacy concerns and could be abused if, say, hypothetically, the wrong people come into power.

Other than robots, what else is worth checking out from CES for lawyers? Legal keyboards!

Bob Ambrogi, in his LawSites blog, covered LegalBoard, a legal-specific keyboard debuting at CES. It’s built by a lawyer named Brian Potts, and it solves the problem of executing common legal shortcuts such as turning track changes on or off and inserting sections.

So score a point for an actual lawyer coming up with a new piece of hardware for lawyers and debuting it at CES.  Now that sounds like a busy guy who could use a robotic personal assistant!

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