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The buzz of the next big thing was palpable last week in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's biggest launchpad for new technology. Among more than 4000 exhibitors, signs everywhere exhorted visitors to say "Hey Google", the "wake phrase" for devices fitted with the voice-activated Google Assistant. Amazon's Alexa was not to be outdone, making its way into smart TVs, cars and coffee machines. A year ago, Alexa was the only voice game in town, but quirky applications like a voice-activated pool cleaner positioned it as a curiosity on the side. This year, it was all but the main event, with Google Assistant. While neither company formally exhibits at the electronics show, both had an aggressive presence, with their banners, sponsorships, partnerships, activations and meeting rooms almost overshadowing traditional consumer electronics brands. So it was that kitchen appliance maker Gourmia was touting its air fryers and pressure cookers not for their latest food-makin...

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