As theme park rides go, it was pretty tame: a four-minute trundle through the ups and downs of family life, avoiding a traffic jam and a thunderstorm, then ending at a birthday party. Yet last week in Las Vegas, Google Assistant — The Ride was the talk of the town. The tech group had constructed its own miniature version of Disneyland in a car park, for one week only, just to promote its virtual assistant at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). A series of custom-made animatronic characters and dioramas demonstrate how Google’s reminders, navigation tips and translation services can help buy grandma a birthday cake. It is the sort of extravagant marketing stunt that showed just how eager Google is to show CES’s 180,000 attendees that it is serious about taking on Amazon and Apple for dominance in virtual assistants, smart speakers and the connected home. “It’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” said Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, of Google’s two-storey Assistant Playground. “It’s al...

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