i3 - January/February 2018 - 16

Tech

By Murray Slovick

A T EC H TO WATC H

Making Smart Homes Even Smarter

The Intel Speech
Enabling Developer
Kit for Amazon Alexa
provides an audio
front-end solution for
voice control.

 T 

he impact of voice-controlled digital assistants such as
Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Microsoft
Cortana and Samsung Bixby cannot be overstated.
Consumers are using voice commands for turning on the lights,
streaming music, asking questions and accessing third-party
services in record numbers. Interacting directly with smart
home assistants has created a new sales channel: shop by voice.
CTA projected consumers would
buy 4.4 million Amazon Alexa and
Google Home devices during the 2017
holiday season, up 22 percent, in its U.S.
Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts.
The report pegged 2017 sales in the
smart home category at 27 million units
(a 50 percent increase over 2016), earning
$3.3 billion (a 48 percent increase).
As the Kids Say: OMG
These smart assistants work pretty
much the same way. There is a trigger
phrase that captures the system's
attention, such as Apple's "Hey Siri,"
which lets users invoke Siri hands-free.
This isn't as simple as it seems. A very
small speech recognition engine - the
16

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

Apple iPhone calls it the "Always-on
Processor" - has access to the microphone signal and runs all the time,
listening for those two words.
The "Hey Siri" detector uses a Deep
Neural Network (DNN) to convert
the acoustic pattern of your voice into
a probability distribution over speech
sounds. It then computes a confidence
score to confirm you said "Hey Siri." If
the score is high enough, Siri wakes up.
The audio input that follows in each
digital assistant then is transmitted to the
cloud for processing via Wi-Fi. A smart
device equipped with Bluetooth first
sends its audio file to a smartphone and
then transmits the file to the cloud using
a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Placing

the main voice recognition engine in the
cloud efficiently eliminates the need for
dedicated resources in the device.
If they work the same way, how can
suppliers make these smart assistant
devices smarter?
Involve More Developers
With the competition to build digital
assistant products intensifying, success
will depend on how well they perform,
but also the ecosystem to which they
connect. The ease that third-party
developers can integrate voice-control
technology into their products is critical.
Intel released the Intel Speech
Enabling Developer Kit for Amazon
Alexa that provides an audio frontend solution for voice control.
It includes algorithms for acoustic
echo cancelation, noise reduction,
beamforming (a signal processing technique used for directional signal transmission or reception) and a custom
wake-word engine tuned to "Alexa."
It also comes with dual Intel DSPs and
an eight-microphone circular array.
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N


http://www.cta.tech/salesandforecasts http://www.cta.tech/salesandforecasts

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