Everyone knows that the use of voice assistants is exploding. Just returning from CES, it was amazing to see the number of booths that support Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Nevertheless, recent research from Edison-NPR is showing that US household adoption of voice assistant applications is slowing down.
Virtual handsfree assistants that you can talk to and that talk back have rapidly gained popularity. First, they arrived in mobile phones with Motorola’s MotoX that had an ‘always listening’ Moto Voice powered by Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree technology. The approach quickly spread across mobile phones and PCs to include Hey Siri, OK Google, and Hey Cortana.
Then Amazon took things to a whole new level with the Echo using Alexa. A true voice interface emerged, initially for music but quickly expanding domain coverage to include weather, Q&A, recipes, and the most common queries. On top of that, Amazon took a unique approach by enabling 3rd parties to develop “skills” that now number over 6000! These skills allow Amazon’s Echo line (with Tap, Dot) and 3rd Party Alexa equipped products (like Nucleus and Triby) to be used to control various functions, from reading heartrates on Fitbits to ordering Pizzas and controlling lights.
Until recently, handsfree assistants required a certain minimum power capability to really be always on and listening. Additionally, the hearable market segment including fitness headsets, hearing aids, stereo headsets and other Bluetooth devices needed to use touch control because of their power limitations. Also, Amazons Alexa had required WIFI communications so you could sit on your couch talking to your Echo and query Fitbit information, but you couldn’t go out on a run and ask Alexa what your heartrate was.
All this is changing now with Sensory’s VoiceGenie!
The VoiceGenie runs an embedded recognizer in a low power mode. Initially this is on a Qualcomm/CSR Bluetooth chip, but could be expanded to other platforms. Sensory has taken an SBC music decoder and intertwined a speech recognition system, so that the Bluetooth device can recognize speech while music is playing.
The VoiceGenie is on and listening for 2 keywords: Alexa – this enables Alexa “On the Go” through a cellphone rather than requiring WiFi VoiceGenie – this provides access to all the Bluetooth Device and Handset Device features
For example, a Bluetooth headset’s volume, pairing, battery strength, or connection status can only be controlled by the device itself, so VoiceGenie handles those controls without touching required. VoiceGenie can also read incoming callers’ names and ask the user if they want to answer or ignore. VoiceGenie can call up the phone’s assistant, like Google Assistant or Siri or Cortana, to ask by voice for a call to be made or a song to be played. By saying Alexa, the user gets access to a mobile Alexa ‘On the Go’, so any of the Alexa skills can be utilized while out and about, whether hiking or running!
Some of the important facts behind the new VoiceGenie include:
VoiceGenie is a platform for VoiceAssistants to be used Handsfree on tiny devices
VoiceGenie enables Alexa for a whole new range of portable products
VoiceGenie enables a movement towards invisible assistants that are with you all the time and help you in your daily lives
This third point is perhaps the least understood, yet the most important. People want a personalized assistant that knows them, keeps their secrets safe, and helps them in their daily lives. This help can be accessing information or controlling your environment. It’s very difficult to accomplish this for privacy and power reasons in a cloud powered environment. There needs to be embedded intelligence. It needs to be low power. VoiceGenie is that low powered voice assistant.
I spent last week at CES in Las Vegas. What a show!
The big keynote speech was the night before the show started and was given by Brian Krzanich, Intel’s new CEO. His talk was focused on Wearables, and he demonstrated 3 wearable devices (charger, in-ear, and platform architecture). The platform demo included a live on stage use of speech recognition with the low power wake up provided by Sensory. The demo was a smashing success! Several bloggers called it a “canned” demo assuming it couldn’t be live speech recognition if it worked so flawlessly!
I had a chance to walk through the Wearables area. Holy smoke there must have been 20 or 30 smart watches, a similar number of health bands, and even a handful of glasses vendors. In fact, seeing attendees wearing Google’s Glass was quite common place. The smart watches mostly communicate with Bluetooth, and some of the smaller, lighter devices, use Zigbee, ultra-low power Bluetooth, or Ant+ for wireless communications.
Sensory was all over CES, here’s some of the things Sensory sales people were able to catch us in:
Overall a great show for Sensory. Jeff Rogers, Sensory’s VP Sales told me, “A few people said they had searched out speech recognition products on the show floor to find the various speech vendors, and found that they all were using Sensory.”
I’ve been going to CES for about 30 years now. More than half of that has been with Sensory selling speech recognition. This year I reminisced with Jeff Rogers (Sensory’s VP Sales who has been at Sensory almost as long as me) about Sensory’s first CES back in 1995 where we walked around with briefcases that said “Ask Me About Speech Recognition for Consumer Electronics”. A lot of people did ask! There’s always been a lot of interest in speech recognition for consumer electronics, but today it goes beyond interest…it’s in everything from the TV’s to the Cars to Bluetooth devices…and a lot of that is with Sensory technology. Often we are paired with Nuance, Google and increasingly ATT as the cloud speech solution, while Sensory is the client. In 2013, Sensory counted about 20 companies showing its technology on the floor or in private meeting rooms. An increasing percentage of our products are now connected to the cloud and using client/cloud speech schemes. Here’s just a short summary of some of the new things here at the show:
Bluetooth BlueAnt, Bluetrek, Drive and Talk, Monster Cable, Motorola, Plantronics, all showed products using Sensory’s BlueGenie speech technologies for Bluetooth devices. I noticed Plantronics won a show award for one of their new devices with Sensory technology. This market seems to have flattened and stopped growing, and Sensory is lucky to be working with the leaders who appear to be gaining in marketshare against their competition…correlation or causation?? ;-) Our customers in this segment introduced a dozen or more new products ranging from carkits to headsets to Bluetooth speaker systems.
Chip Companies Conexant announced their new DSP CX20865 running Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree and gave demo’s in their Suite at the LVH. Tensilica announced their new HIFI Mini and gave some of the best demo’s on the showroom floor of speech recognition (Sensory’s of course!) working in adverse noise conditions at ultra low power.
Automotive QNX showed off their beautiful Bentley concept car with built in graphics and speech recognition including Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree Voice Control paired with AT&T’s cloud based Watson ASR engine Visteon – Did some pretty neat demo’s that we can’t discuss other to say they featured Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree Voice Control! The car companies love us because WE WORK in noise!
Other Samsung had a huge booth showing Galaxy products (Note, S3, etc.) using Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree triggers as a part of the S-Voice system VTech showed a variety of phone products using Sensory technologies including our micro-TTS solutions for caller ID IVEE paired a Sensory IC for local command and operation with the ATT cloud recognizer to create a very impressive demo that got nice coverage on NPR! (scroll down to “heard on the air”) Behind closed doors – around half a dozen other companies showed cool new things in private suites. Unfortunately I can’t discuss these, but I will say that 2013 will see some major product releases with interesting user experiences and Sensory will be very proud to be a part of these! My favorite non Sensory things – Yeah the 4K/8K TV’s were pretty amazing. Crisper than real life, which doesn’t seem possible but it’s true. The new 3D printers and services to make hardware prototypes are amazing (why isn’t HP dominating this market???). But…my favorite stuff is robotics. There was a robot glass cleaner that climbs vertically around windows and cleans them off without falling. Kinda like a Roomba for windows. I met some hacker guys that as a hobby make giant servo/mechanical/electro robot snakes and creatures they can ride in. Think MadMax/Burning Man kinds of artistic technology. I have some neat video’s of this I’ll send anyone who wants them.
Lot’s of thoughts…no time to share them…So I’ll be brief in a few different areas:
Thank you SIRI! Now every CE Company must have speech technology. How the world has changed, and after 18 years of Sensory being one of the only speech company focused on consumer electronics, now everyone is doing it!
What’s really weird is the number of chip companies and investment bankers that have been popping up on our doorsteps since SIRI shipped. Companies do move in herds!
Nuance buys Vlingo. Full disclosure…Vlingo is Sensory’s partner (we’ll see what happens after the deal closes.) How much was paid? (Rumor I keep hearing is the highway that runs near my house…) Why did they pay so much? (because they can, to end the personal lawsuit, to end the other lawsuits, to prevent market share from eroding, NOT to grow their technology base!)
And what about the Justice Department’s investigation of Nuance (Don’t they have better things to do with our taxes these days?)…The Nuance/Vlingo’s position seems to be all about fighting Microsoft, Google, etc…which has some merit, but if it don’t have Android or Windows Phone, who ya gonna call? Nuance will always be on the list.
Monster Cable showed a cool product at CES with TrulyHandsfree™ inside…they were kind enough to invite the Sensory crew to see Chicago. GREAT CONCERT! I think there were another 20-30 or so products on the CES floor with Sensory inside!
We also just got nominated for a Global Mobile Award at the Mobile World Congress.
And who says there’s a recession still going on? Our chip-based product sales are going through the roof! The success of our IC product line is also based on TrulyHandsfree because it enables a quasi-natural language interface.
Where in the world is Majel???? Sensory did a voice-controlled light switch a few years back with a company called VOS Systems. They licensed the Star Trek brand, used “Computer” as the voice trigger to control the lights, and even licensed Majel Roddenberry’s voice…pretty cool!