June 11, 2015
Guest post by: Michael Farino
Sensory’s CEO, Todd Mozer joined Alan Taylor, host of Popular Science Radio, in a fun discussion about artificial intelligence, Sensory’s involvement with the Jibo robot development team, and also gave the show’s listeners a look into the past 20 years of speech recognition. Todd and Alan additionally discussed some of the latest advancements in speech technology, and Todd provided an update on Sensory’s most recent achievements in the field of speech recognition as well as a brief look into what the future holds.
Listen to the full radio show at the link below:
Big Bang Theory, Science, and Robots | FULL EPISODE | Popular Science Radio #269
Ever wondered how accurate the science of the Big Bang Theory TV series is? Curious about how well speech recognition technology and robots are advancing? We interview two great minds to probe for these answers
March 3, 2015
It feels like I had a whole week’s worth of the trade show wrapped into one day! By the time mid week hits, I’ll surely be ready to head home! Here are some of the highlights from the first day of Mobile World Congress 2015:
- First a word about Catalonia. That’s where Barcelona is…in the heart of Catalonia, a province of Spain. Don’t expect delayed meetings, inefficiencies, relaxed long lunches or anything like that. The Catalonians have the precision of Germans (to continue my gross stereotyping!), and my experience with one of the largest trade shows on the planet is that it’s going off without a hitch! I picked up my badge at the airport in a five-minute line that was well staffed and moved rapidly. I could just about walk into the show yesterday morning. The subways and trains though crowded and overheated ran extremely smoothly. Kudos to the show management for pulling off such a difficult feat!
- I’d be remiss without mentioning the Galaxy S6. Samsung invited us to the launch and of course they continue to use Sensory in a relationship that has grown quite strong over the years. Samsung continues to innovate with the Edge, and other products that everyone is talking about. It’s amazing how far Apple took the mantle in the first iPhone and how companies like Samsung and the Android system seem to now be leading the charge on innovation!
- My favorite product that doesn’t feature Sensory technology that I bumped into was an electronic jump rope. They put sensors in the handles and a visual display shows across the field of the rope, kind of like those clocks that rapidly flash LED’s as the pendulum quickly moves back and forth in order to display the time. I talked with Alex Woo from Tangram and he said they were going to launch a crowdfunding campaign. I gave Alex a demo of our TrulyHandsfree with jump ropers jumping and all the show noise and of course it worked flawlessly. It would be really cool to be able to ask things like “How much time,” “How many jumps,” “What’s my heart rate,” or “How many calories burned” and so on, and the display would make voice control so much more functional!
- We had a couple of partnership announcements here at the show, supporting both Qualcomm and Synopsys – both great partners to add to our support mix, and always nice when its customers driving our platform directions. The Qualcomm platform is interesting because it’s not their standard platform for 3rd parties to support. As far as I know they opened it up to Sensory and ONLY Sensory, and already we are seeing much interest!
- Last night ZTE had a press party to indoctrinate Sensory and NXP into its Smart Voice Alliance. ZTE is really putting some forward thinking into the user experience and their research shows how much people want a voice interface but how dissatisfying the current state of the art actually is. Sensory’s hoping to change that! We’ll make one of our biggest announcements in history over the next month… and I’ll let you in on the secret (it’s on our website already!) We call it TrulyNatural, and it will be the highest accuracy large vocabulary embedded speech engine that the world has ever seen!
October 15, 2014
A couple of news headlines have appeared recently asserting that voice activation is unsafe. I thought it was time for Sensory to weigh in on a few aspects of this since we are the pioneers in voice activation:
- In-Car Speech Recognition. There have been a few studies like AAA/U of Utah
The headlines from these studies claim speech recognition creates distraction while driving. Other recent studies have shown that voice recognition in the car is one of the biggest complaints. But if you read into these studies carefully, what you really find are several important aspects:
- What they call “hands free” is not 100% TrulyHandsfree. It requires touch to activate so right there I agree it can take your eyes of the road, and potentially your hands off the wheels.
- It’s really bad UX design that is distracting and not the speech recognition per se.
- It’s not that people don’t want speech recognition. It’s that they don’t want speech recognition that fails all the time.
Here’s my conclusion on all this denigration of in-car speech recognition: there are huge problems with what the automotive companies have been deploying. The UX is bad and the speech recognition is bad. That doesn’t mean that speech recognition is not needed in the car…on the contrary, what’s needed is good speech recognition implemented in good design.
From my own experience it isn’t just that the speech recognition is bad and the UX is bad. The flaky Bluetooth connections and the problems of changing phones adds to the perception of speech not working. When I’m driving, I use speech recognition all the time, and it’s GREAT, but I don’t use the recognizer in my Lexus…I use my MotoX with the always on trigger, and then with Google Now, I can make calls or listen to music, etc.
- Lack of Security. The CTO of AVG blasted speech recognition because it is unsafe.Now I previously resisted the temptation to comment on this, because the CTO’s boss (the CEO) is on my board of directors. I kind of agree and I kind of disagree with the CTO. I agree that speech recognition CAN BE unsafe…that’s EXACTLY why we add speaker verification into our wake up triggers…then ONLY the right person can get in. It’s really kind of surprising to me that Apple and Google haven’t done this yet! On the other hand, there are plenty of tasks that don’t really require security. The idea of a criminal lurking outside my home and controlling my television screen seemed more humorous than scary. In the case of TVs, I do think password protection is great but it’s really more for the purpose of identifying who is using the television and to call up their favorites, their voice adapted templates, and their restrictions (if any) on what they can watch AND how long they can watch…yeah I’m thinking about my kids and their need to get homework done. :-)
September 5, 2014
I was very excited to hear Motorola’s announcements today about the new Moto X, MotoG, Moto Hint and Moto 360.
What particularly caught my ear was the statement that they were changing the name from Touchless Control to Moto Voice. They made this decision because so many people thought the technology came from Google in the form of Android, and Moto wanted everyone to know it DIDN’T come from Google.
Actually…It came from Sensory. At least we were an important part of it!!! We have been working on the cool new user defined triggers and are excited that Moto has adopted them for the flagship MotoX (Write-up).
This feature was announced in our TrulyHandsfree 3.0
The new Moto Hint headset is really cool too. It’s a bit like Intel’s Jarvis headset that was announced by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at CES (and of course uses Sensory!).
Of course the Moto360 is AWESOME, and has some pretty cool voice control features. Yes, Sensory has done an “OK Google” trigger…we even benchmarked our trigger against Google’s…I might share the results in an upcoming blog if there is interest.
July 31, 2014
Yeah, I grew up in an era of watching robots on TV and in the movies, and reading about them in books and comic strips. They were and still are a part of our media culture. My goal in life has been to live in a Jetsons-like world! Well, not really, but I do have a film slide of Rosie the Maid up on my wall, and the mod, Googie, mid-century future style from the Jetsons is definitely my style.
It’s been fun at Sensory to be part of a robot revolution in toys. We have put speech technologies into over 50 robotic creatures from dolls to strange new alien things like Furby. When Aibo first shipped, we had half a dozen companies come to us with awesome designs for new low cost robotic dogs that could respond to their masters’ voices!
Here’s a fun realistic looking robot dog – Scamps. Sensory was in this a few years ago, and it seems to be enjoying a huge comeback in 2014.
More recently we were in Intel’s “Jarvis” headset…When we first created the Jarvis trigger, I didn’t get the name. Then I saw the movie Ironman! :-)
Sensory has designed a lot of robotic technologies beyond speech recognition and synthesis. We have platforms such as sound sourcing, where a robot with two mics can locate the speaker through triangulation. We have sonic networking as a low cost wireless protocol so robots can take commands from TV commercials or YouTube videos or even other robots. We even have made lip synchronization approaches and pitch detection technologies so robots can mimic their owners in a fun and playful way.
The rise of robotic vacuum and window cleaners and non-toy robotic applications is really Neato (yeah that’s a pun!) Of course there have been a lot of beer delivery home robots over the years too, but none of them are making it into the mainstream.
The magic however has not yet really hit, because I want the fun, playfulness, and interactivity of the toys but with utility added in, so it really is more like the Jetsons or Lost in Space.
Jibo is a new robot that might foot this bill, and it seems that I’m not the only one that likes the concept, as it is getting pretty close to being one of the Top 10 funded Indiegogo campaigns of all time!
July 25, 2014
I see a bit of irony that a great Saturday Night Live alumnus is launching a campaign to decrease spoofing. I’m talking about Senator Al Franken, who has been looking into the problem of stolen fingerprints, see article.
Senator Franken challenges Samsung and Apple with some fair concerns about the problem of stolen or spoofed biometrics. The issue is that most biometrics that could be stolen can’t be easily replaced. We only have one face, two eyes, and 10 fingers, so not a lot of chances to replace or change them if they are stolen.
The mobile phone companies, challenged on the fingerprint issue, had two responses:
- The biometric data is ON DEVICE. This is very important because when it’s stored in the clouds it becomes much more accessible to a hacker AND much more desirable because the payoff is a whole lot of user information. Cloud security is often hacked into, such as the recent break-in of the European Central Bank. In fact many banks I have spoken to insist that passwords can’t be stored in the clouds because they are just too easy to hack that way.
- The fingerprint biometric is not stored as a fingerprint image, but as some sort of mathematical representation. I’m not sure I understand this argument because if the digital representation can be copied and replicated, then the system is cracked whether or not it looks like a fingerprint.
I think Franken is right to question the utility of biometric fingerprints, because a product like Sensory’s TrulySecure (combining voice and vision authentication) offers a large number of advantages:
- The TrulySecure biometric is not easy to copy or find. Unlike a fingerprint which gets left everywhere, a voice print with a video image of a person saying a particular phrase is NOT easy to find, and even if well recorded, would fall apart with Sensory’s anti-spoofing technology that requires a live image.
- The TrulySecure biometric is readily changeable. Unlike the nine chances that a user has to replace a fingerprint, there are a virtually unlimited number of TrulySecure password phrases that can be used. If by some nearly impossible chance a TrulySecure biometric phrase is copied, it can be changed in a matter of seconds and a virtually unlimited number of times.
- TrulySecure works across conditions. Every biometric seems to have a failure mode. Fingerprint sensors seem to require a highly directionalized swipe of a very clean finger. If I cut my finger or have a little peanut butter on it, it just doesn’t work. Likewise a voiceprint by itself might fail in high noise, and a faceprint might fail in low lighting, but that magical dual biometric fusion in TrulySecure seems immune to conditions.
Here’s a demo I gave to UberGizmo in a somewhat dark and very noisy hotel lobby. I like this demo because it shows a real world situation and how FAST TrulySecure works.
Here’s a more canned demo on Sensory’s home page that better showcases some of the anti-spoofing features.
June 30, 2014
- TrulySecure™ is now announced!!!! This is the first on device fusion of voice and vision for authentication, and it really works AMAZINGLY well. I’m so proud of our new computer vision team and in Sensory’s expansion from speech recognition to speech and vision technologies. Now we are much more than “The Leader in Speech Technologies for Consumer Electronics”- we are “The Leader in Speech and Vision Technology for Consumer Products!” Hey check out the new TrulySecure video on our home page, and our new TrulySecure Product Brief. We hope and expect that TrulySecure will have the same HUGE impact on the market as Sensory had with TrulyHandsfree, the technology that pioneered always on touch less control!
- Google I/O. Android wants to be everywhere: in our cars, in our homes, and in our phones. They are willing to spend billions of dollars to do it. Why? To observe our behaviors, which in turn will help provide us more of what we want…and they will also assist in those purchases. Of course this is what Microsoft and Apple and others want as well, but right now Google has the best cloud based voice experience, and if you ask me it’s the best user experience that will win the game. Seems like they should try and move ahead on the client, but lucky for Sensory we are staying ahead!
- Rumors about Samsung acquiring Nuance…Why would they spend $7B for Nuance when they can pick up a more unique solution from Sensory for only $1B? Yeah, that’s a joke, and is definitely not intended as an offer or solicitation to sell Sensory!
- OH! Sensory has a new logo! We made it to celebrate our 20 year anniversary!
June 9, 2014
I still subscribe to the San Jose Mercury News, as they do a good job of tech business reporting. One of my favorite Mercury News writers is a true critic in the literary sense of the term, Troy Wolverton. Troy rarely raves and is typically critical, but in a smart, logical, and unemotional way.
A few days back he started writing about Microsoft’s Cortana and said “Watch out Siri, someone wants your job.”
I was eager to read his review of Cortana this morning and in particular his comparison with Siri. He ended up giving it a 7/10, and concluding Siri was still ahead. What I thought was most interesting though was that in his final summary, he compared three products and three assistants based on the ease of calling up each of those assistants:
- Cortana – required two touch steps to activate the personal voice assistant
- Siri – required one touch step to activate the personal voice assistant
- MotoX – The best, because you can just start talking with the keyword phrase “OK Google Now” making a TrulyHandsfree experience!!
Motorola is Sensory’s customer, and I am happy to read that Troy gets it and considers this front end activation an important metric in comparing personal assistants!
June 4, 2014
It was about 4 years ago that Sensory partnered with Vlingo to create a voice assistant with a special “in car” mode that would allow the user to just say “Hey Vlingo” then ask any question. This was one of the first “TrulyHandsfree” voice experiences on a mobile phone, and it was this feature that was often cited for giving Vlingo the lead in the mobile assistant wars (and helped lead to their acquisition by Nuance).
About 2 years ago Sensory introduced a few new concepts including “trigger to search” and our “deeply embedded” ultra-low power always listening (now down to under 2mW, including audio subsystem!). Motorola took advantage of these excellent approaches from Sensory and created what I most biasedly think is the best voice experience on a mobile phone. Samsung too has taken the Sensory technology and used in a number of very innovative ways going beyond mere triggers and using the same noise robust technology for what I call “sometimes always listening”. For example when the camera is open it is always listening for “shoot” “photo” “cheese” and a few other words.
So I’m curious about what Google, Microsoft, and Apple will do to push the boundaries of voice control further. Clearly all 3 like this “sometimes always on” approach, as they don’t appear to be offering the low power options that Motorola has enabled. At Apple’s WWDC there wasn’t much talk about Siri, but what they did say seemed quite similar to what Sensory and Vlingo did together 4 years ago…enable an in car mode that can be triggered by “Hey Siri” when the phone is plugged in and charging.
I don’t think that will be all…I’m looking forward to seeing what’s really in store for Siri. They have hired a lot of smart people, and I know something good is coming that will make me go back to the iPhone, but for now it’s Moto and Samsung for me!
May 16, 2014
Nick Bilton, in a New York Times article, cites Forrester Research analysts who point out the importance of software in differentiating and creating value in the wearables market while avoiding commoditization.
While the new hardware is fun and exciting for consumers, the ultimate value will come from creating a connection and engaging the consumers with effective and useful analysis of all the data collected. And in the small wearable form factor, the user interface is always going to be critical. With little or no room for buttons and displays, and not always having a smartphone handy to run an app, voice will increasingly become the user interface of choice for these devices.
Sensory is very well positioned to support voice user interfaces for wearables with ultra-low power implementations that can be woken by a gesture, and quickly respond to commands or shut down to minimize impact on battery life. Watch this space (pun intended) for product announcements of wearables with great voice user interfaces!