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When will our smart speakers become conversation starters?

When will our smart speakers become conversation starters? 650 365 XMOS

On-device AI and push notifications could put voice assistants at the ‘intelligent edge’. “At its most powerful, voice can deliver a user experience like a ‘digital twin’, delivering ‘just in time, personalized, relevant content,“ says says Mark Lippett, CEO at XMOS. Click the link above to read the full article by Jamie Carter in TechRadar.

https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/when-will-our-smart-speakers-become-conversation-starters

“Hallo Magenta” – XMOS VocalFusion helps to bring Deutsche Telekom’s new smart speaker to life

“Hallo Magenta” – XMOS VocalFusion helps to bring Deutsche Telekom’s new smart speaker to life 4032 3024 XMOS
Bristol/Berlin 1 October 2018

XMOS, leading supplier of voice and audio solutions, are proud to be part of the team that helped to create Magenta – Deutsche Telekom’s smart speaker, which delivers superior 360 degree far field voice control and sophisticated audio in a small, attractive and portable design.

Using XMOS’s high-performance silicon and voice algorithms, experts at the Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology branch at Fraunhofer’s Institute for Digital Media Technology (IDMT) in Oldenburg, Germany, were able to refine and combine microphone and loudspeaker technologies to create a robust voice control system that allows the user to listen to music at the same time as using voice command controls.

Launched at this year’s IFA in Berlin, the Magenta Smart Speaker unites all the algorithms necessary for maximum quality and accurate audio reproduction. Combined with intelligent algorithms for speech capture – integrated on XMOS voice processor – the teams collaborated to optimise the interaction between speakers and microphones for voice control in real world, noisy environments.

Key features

  • Using the Magenta intelligent personal assistant, voice control can be used to operate connected devices in the home such as TV and Deutsche Telekom’s smart home applications without the need for a remote control.
  • The personal assistant can also be used to make telephone calls with excellent audio quality.
  • Users of Amazon’s cloud-based Alexa Voice Service can also access a large number of apps with Deutsche Telekom’s smart speaker.
  • The new voice-controlled assistant conforms to the highest data security requirements. Data processing takes place exclusively within the European Union and complies with Deutsche Telekom’s high data protection standards.

“We’re proud to be part of the Magenta project. Our combined expertise has produced a class-leading user experience, demonstrating highly sophisticated audio and speech recognition” said Mark Lippett, CEO of XMOS. “Voice control in smart speakers is here to stay. We look forward to further collaborations with Fraunhofer IDMT in Oldenburg.”

 

About XMOS

XMOS is a leading supplier of voice and audio solutions to the consumer electronics market. Unique silicon architecture and highly differentiated software positions XMOS at the interface between voice processing, biometrics and artificial intelligence. For more information, please visit www.xmos.com, or email press@xmos.com.

About the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Oldenburg

The objective of the Fraunhofer IDMT in Oldenburg is to transpose scientific findings related to hearing perception into technological applications. Its applied research priorities are the enhancement of sound and speech intelligibility, personalized audio reproduction and acoustic speech and event detection. Application fields include consumer electronics, transport, the automotive sector, production, safety, telecommunications and healthcare. For more information, please visit www.idmt.fraunhofer.de/hsa.

Media Contact

Emma Davies
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – PR agency for XMOS
emmad@rlyl.com
+44 (0)20 7403 8878

Giving voice to the elderly

Giving voice to the elderly 5386 3591 admin

Voice-enabled technologies will transform the health and happiness of the elderly.

The UN predicts a 56% rise in the number of people aged 60 years or over, taking us from over 900 million in 2015 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2030.The world’s population is changing. Our demographic is aging. And this could well be the defining issue of our time. An aging population creates a burden on health systems and individual households. Family members, clinicians, and assisted care providers will need a new generation of technology platforms to help them stay informed, coordinated, and most importantly, connected.

The social care system is facing a mountain of challenges and it can’t cope with a sustained upswing in the number of senior people and adults living with chronic illnesses.

Whether living at home or in an assisted facility, help may come from an unexpected source – technology. Speech recognition and voice-enabled devices make technology accessible to all. There’s no need to tap a keyboard or figure out how to work the remote control, you simply talk to the device from across the room. A voice-controlled device can empower a formerly ‘dis-empowered’ user. It can ease pressure on caregivers, becoming a companion and digital assistant. Of course it’s not a replacement for human interaction, but rather a meaningful addition.

How can voice-enabled assistants make a difference?

Voice-enabled assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are at the forefront of society’s screenless future. Thanks to rapid advancements in voice technology and natural language processing (NLP), these virtual assistants are far better equipped to understand human speech and respond accurately (and in real-time). These virtual-assistants can perform all sorts of tasks – including playing music on demand, calling friends or prompting you to take your medication at a certain time.

This can make a big difference to those living with a chronic illness, anyone who has limited mobility, and the elderly. It can make tasks easier and create a sense of companionship. More importantly, it helps people regain control. From simple actions such as lighting the room and adjusting the temperature, to things that are critical to our wellbeing, such as controlling access to our home and the calling for emergency assistance when needed.

How does this work in the real world?

The team at Pillohealth have come up with a ground-breaking, in-home 24/7 companion robot – Pillo – which combines voice control, facial recognition and artificial intelligence to provide personalised digital healthcare. The technology can also provide 24-hour care and companionship, entertainment on the go, reminders of when the patient needs to eat, sleep or move and the ability for the person to live independently.

The device acts as a secure pill dispenser, offers video check-ins with caregivers, can quickly and reliably identify valuable healthcare insights and can send data to healthcare professionals. But it offers much more than that to the user. They don’t need to learn how to use Pillo, they can just talk to it – and the companion robot is on hand to tune into their favourite radio station radio, answer a question, manage their calendar and give them handy reminders.

It all adds together to help the user enjoy a more independent life and could help to ease pressure on a stretched healthcare system. (see pilloheath.com)

Companionship is equally important

Happiness comes when the ‘assistant’ becomes something more akin to ‘companion’. A study by US company Brookdale Senior Living, explores technologies that can help the older generation stay independent for longer.

A team set out to determine whether reciting Shakespeare with a robot could increase engagement and lessen symptoms of depression. A two-foot tall robot called Nao recited the first 12 lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and then prompted seniors to recite the last two lines.

Those who interacted with Nao experienced significant decreases in depression and significant increases in engagement over time. Showing the tangible capability of voice-enabled assistants to be more than just a virtual caregiver, but at times a companion who is available 24/7.

Voice can provide both practical and emotional benefits

Over time, advancements in artificial intelligence will improve voice-enabled assistants. Learning more about the user with each interaction, they will move from reactive responses to a more relevant, engaging conversation. They will become an integral part of the consumer ecosystem, seamlessly integrating across all devices and platforms to become a natural, digital companion.

Crucially, if technology is controlled by voice, it becomes accessible to everyone. There’s no need to learn how to use it, you just talk to it. A number of studies have shown that talking makes us feel happier, so it’s easy to see how voice enabled technology could transform life for the elderly in ways that are both practical and emotional. And given our aging demographic, this feels like a very good thing.

Voice Recognition to Drive More ‘Conversational’ Platforms

Voice Recognition to Drive More ‘Conversational’ Platforms 400 225 admin

LONDON — Two years ago, Gartner predicted that 30 percent of our interactions with technology in 2018 would happen through conversations with voice-based systems. Last month, an analyst predicted that Amazon’s Alexa will drive $10 billion in sales by 2020.

https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1332788

Tymphany and XMOS to showcase new soundbar at IFA with Alexa built-In

Tymphany and XMOS to showcase new soundbar at IFA with Alexa built-In 6000 4500 admin

Tymphany, a global premier audio ODM, and XMOS, a leading supplier of advanced embedded voice solutions, announced the latest project in building a new Alexa Built-In soundbar that will be demonstrated at Amazon’s exhibit at IFA in Berlin, 31 August to 5 September 2018.

The Amazon Alexa Built-In soundbar features XMOS Vocal Fusion™ far-field voice processor as well as Tymphany’s acoustic expertise to create an immersive audio experience. The low frequency bass extension powered by Tymphany’s patented, slim profile GBS subwoofers allows for smooth frequency response down to 50 Hz. Using Tymphany’s A113D SOM and XMOS’ XVF3500 stereo-AEC voice processor, the soundbar connects with the Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS) via WiFi and has an excellent far-field voice capture and barge-in performance from across the room – even when the Tymphany soundbar is playing content at high volume and the commands are spoken softly. The soundbar will include Amazon’s signature LED light ring response and buttons, as well as provide access to Amazon Prime Music and TuneIn support.

“We’re proud to have helped bring this project to life”, added Mark Lippett, CEO of XMOS: “This new soundbar showcases the innovation, dedication and collaboration of the international partners involved.”

With Tymphany’s extensive resources and global engineering team, they have deep expertise and excellent partnerships across the entire signal chain, enabling them to deliver products that offer unique combinations of user experiences and features not achieved by other audio ODMs.

“Tymphany and XMOS have created a soundbar that enhances the listening experience by providing simple, hands-free interaction with Alexa,” said Priya Abani, Director of the Alexa Voice Service. “We’re excited to have a new solution that brings rich voice capabilities to our customers.”

“We are extremely excited to introduce the Tymphany Alexa Built-In soundbar this year at IFA 2018. We are proud of our team’s efforts to realize this complex, groundbreaking and great performing soundbar reference design. We would not have been able to achieve this milestone without the awesome support of the Amazon Alexa Voice Service and XMOS development teams”, says Chris von Hellermann, Senior Director of Technology Management at Tymphany.

You can see and hear this demo and more at the Amazon booth in Hall 26, booth 201 at IFA this August 31st to September 5th in Berlin.

About Tymphany

Tymphany designs and manufactures some of the most innovative consumer and professional audio systems on the market. The company also sells a full line of speaker drivers under the Peerless by Tymphany brand. The company’s roots go back to 1926 when Peerless was founded in Denmark. In the proceeding 90+ years, Tymphany has grown to be a global premier audio ODM with over 6,000 employees around the world. For more information visit www.tymphany.com.

About XMOS

XMOS is a leading supplier of voice and audio solutions to the consumer electronics market. Unique silicon architecture and highly differentiated software positions XMOS at the interface between voice processing, biometrics and artificial intelligence. For more information, please visit www.xmos.com, or email press@xmos.com.

Want to develop a voice enabled device that can hear across the room?

Want to develop a voice enabled device that can hear across the room? 1014 762 XMOS

You’ll need the right acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) solution.

If you’re designing a voice-enabled product for the smart home that includes a loudspeaker, you’ll need to remove the acoustic echo it generates so you can interrupt the audio stream – barge-in – and give a voice command when the device is playing such as adjust volume.

Mono or stereo?

For products such as security solutions or kitchen appliances, and many smart speakers, mono-AEC is usually the right tool for the job. But if you’re designing products that output true stereo audio, for example TVs, soundbars and media streamers, then you’ll need stereo-AEC to secure the best performance available. Here’s why …

Acoustic echo cancellation explained

Acoustic echo cancellation is a digital signal processing technique for removing echo that originates from a loudspeaker. Within a device, there’s a direct path between the loudspeaker and microphones. There’s also an indirect path between the two, because the audio signal reflects off the walls and other surfaces before it reaches the microphone. Put simply, you’ll get a reflection off the ceiling, floor, each wall and every solid object in the room. These reflections are known as indirect acoustic echo and they’re picked up at different times by the microphone, depending on the length of path from the loudspeaker to the microphone.

If we look at a soundwave generated by a noise from the loudspeaker, the original sound can usually be identified at the beginning and then the soundwave tails off as the energy falls in reflections.

To support barge-in and capture a clear voice stream to send to your automatic speech recognition service (ASR), you need to remove as much echo from the captured microphone signal as possible.

It’s not possible to remove 100% of the echo because the time needed to capture the signal and separate out all of the echo would lead to a delayed response, and the user experience demands that this all happens in real time. So in practice, you’re looking to target an “acceptable” level of echo cancellation that allows the ASR to respond accurately.

Types of acoustic echo cancellers

Echo cancellers are categorised by the number of loudspeaker reference channels supported. Common configurations are either: mono – 1-channel, or true stereo – 2-channel. Another configuration – pseudo-stereo – behaves in a very similar way to mono, but has some significant performance issues when challenged with true stereo audio output.

Mono-AEC

Mono-AEC uses a single reference signal based on the audio input and applies it to the output, which can be one or more loudspeakers.

The Digital Signal Processor uses the reference signal to calculate indirect echo based on the time it takes the reflections to reach the microphone.

Where signal processing has been used to give the impression of a stereo system from a mono signal (e.g. by adjusting the signal pan and volume and output to two or more speakers) the calculation remains based on the reference signal and position of the loudspeakers from the microphone:

True Stereo-AEC

True stereo-AEC uses two separate reference signals based on the two-channel input.

Each reference signal is used to cancel the echo from its corresponding loudspeaker output.

True stereo-AEC requires almost twice the computational resources of a mono solution, and it requires very low latency within the system to keep all the echo cancellation synchronized within the required thresholds.

Pseudo-Stereo-AEC

A pseudo-stereo solution is similar to a mono-AEC configuration; it outputs the two audio streams to separate speakers but uses a single reference signal that is a mix of the two inputs.

The mixed reference signal is then applied to each loudspeaker output.

Problems arise when the mixed signal differs significantly from the two output channels, for example a loud track on one loudspeaker and a quiet one of the other, and the mixed reference signal is not representative of either input signal.

In the example above the amplitude of the reference signal is significantly larger than the output for Input A. This causes the signal to be drowned out leading to a very low signal-to-noise for the voice capture process. With Input B there is not enough AEC when the input is loud which will cause increased artefacts in the captured voice stream and a higher likelihood of inaccurate word recognition.

Choosing the right acoustic echo cancellation solution

The start point is to decide which acoustic echo canceller you need for your microphone array and audio subsystem.

Using a mono-AEC algorithm with a true stereo device will only work if both channels are very similar. If your stereo product uses the full capabilities of stereo audio with spatial soundscape and dramatic volume changes, then the only solution is one that supports true stereo-AEC.

For devices like smart speakers where the required range of output is more limited, a pseudo-stereo may provide an good solution. And for things like kitchen appliances where high quality audio isn’t required, mono-AEC is ideal.

XMOS has a range of solutions to fit whatever product you’re developing. Our XVF3000 series with mono-AEC is ideal for smart panels and smart speaker developers, while our XVF3500 series with two channel stereo-AEC delivers outstanding performance for smart TVs, soundbars and other products that playback true stereo output.

by Huw Geddes