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Voice-controlled home assistant is like a nicer HAL 9000

The Ivee Sleek voice activation assistant, freshly launched at CES, accepts spoken natural language commands to control your home and Internet devices.

Ivee Sleek
Ivee Sleek is a friendly home automation assistant. Amanda Kooser/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Home automation is all over CES 2013. Tucked away in a small booth is Ivee, a company known for its voice-controlled alarm clocks. The newest Ivee creation is the Sleek, a voice-controlled home automation gateway.

You can tell Sleek to turn down the temperature, report stock prices, and share the weather. A pleasant woman's voice communicates with you in turn. This really is like having a HAL for your home, only this particular device hasn't reached sentience yet. She doesn't seem to have Siri's snarky streak, but if you ask her, "Who is Siri?" Sleek will reply, "She is not important."

Sleek is already compatible with Belkin's smart plugs. Ivee also mentioned working with the Nest thermostat, but Nest says it hasn't opened up compatibilty with anyone. Sleek could potentially hook up with all sorts of home automation devices. Ivee is looking at a summer release at a price of $199.

Accepting natural language voice commands is an important part of the Sleek design. All of the company's expertise in voice control as it applies to alarm clocks now comes into play with the new device. You can phrase questions and commands in a normal way by asking "What is the weather in Las Vegas?" or "Make it cooler in here."

Sleek's microphone can pick up commands from as far away as 15 feet, but the recommended distance is more like 5 to 10 feet. That means you'd want to install it in a room you use a lot or get multiple Sleeks to cover your house.

The Ivee Sleek story is also one of CES ingenuity. Ivee's booth is plagued with a common CES exhibitor problem: non-functioning Wi-Fi due to overloaded networks. To demonstrate the Sleek, Ivee's team took the guts from one of its prototypes and hooked it up Ethernet. They cobbled together a microphone and speaker system to make it work. Despite a tremendous amount of ambient noise, it worked just fine.

The Sleek's potential is wide open as far as the information it could share with you and the devices it could control. It could very well become the friendly face (and voice) of home automation.