IFA 2019 was a showcase of connected living

Berlin: 4-9 September

At Europe’s largest tech show, voice assistants were out in full force. Last year, IFA was all about smart speakers. This year, Google’s Assistant and Amazon Alexa were everywhere inside Berlin’s sprawling Messe convention centre. The two leading voice assistants were ever-present in the expo halls, integrated in a vast number of partner products and demonstrations, from soundbars and TVs to laptops and cars. Google and Amazon could have foregone their own stands and still maintained massive presence throughout the event. Bixby, by contrast, was nowhere to be seen, despite Samsung having one of the largest stands of the entire show.

Shortly before IFA kicked off, XMOS’s new 2-mic voice interface passed Amazon AVS qualification with flying colours. The XVF3510 developer kit is aimed at enabling manufacturers to embed top-performing voice interfaces into smart products at an industry-leading price. While news of the qualification arrived too close to IFA for us to create a big splash about it at the show, we did get an early mention on the Alexa Developer Blog. And we took advantage of the acoustically-challenging conference environment to give demonstrations of the XVF3510’s impressive performance in noisy conditions. A successful barge-in from a distance of 3 metres against a backdrop of 90db conference noise makes for a compelling demo, especially when you add in separate point source of music from a mobile phone for good measure.

Amazon’s smart home stand featured a range of products, including a range of 3rd party smart home products, as well as a selection of developer kits. Today more than 60,000 smart home products can be controlled with Alexa, the vast majority of which are built by 3rd parties using chips like the new XMOS XVF3510. We were invited behind the scenes to the Alexa partner drinks, where we had a chance to meet other systems integrators, ODMs and dev kit providers, including our friends from Fraunhofer and Bragi, together with several new contacts made at the event.

Smart TVs played a prominent role on the expo floor. We saw TVs with integrated smart mics from Vestel and Toshiba, while Grundig had smart mic integrated into a soundbar. Sony has packed its new Android TV with a plethora of assistants, including Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay, giving end users the full range of services to choose from. LG has voice control with both Alexa and Google Assistant, but so far has only opted for push-to-talk. We believe the days of the remote control are numbered, and we’ll start to see more and more TVs with a built-in far-field voice interface.

Whichever way you look at it, it is clear that the Voice Market is crossing the chasm into general adoption, and we’re excited to be leading the charge in this growing ecosystem.

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