Technology behind Virtual Assistants and the future of Voice Technology across various industries

Date: December 9, 2019

Author: Kajal Mishra

The Rapidly Evolving Market for Smart Speakers

Propelled by the increasing demand for smart homes and connected devices, traditional speakers are poised for big changes. The outlook of wireless audio industry is expected to change at a radical pace. With the increasing adoption of smart technology, people are in pursuit of automated, connected and convenient home control systems. Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home are becoming household names.

"Projected revenue for global wireless smart speakers is estimated to reach $23bn by 2023"

5 Key Technologies Driving Smart Speakers

Smart speakers paved their way with the aim of making our lives easier, allowing us to control our homes wirelessly, order anything online by using just your voice, and change the song without leaving your chair. But, there’s much more behind these small, low-power devices than microphones and speakers combined with an internet interface.

1. Speech recognition technology

The key technology behind the smart speaker is voice recognition. They are always in “on” mode and ready to listen to you. As they hear the user’ s voice, it captures the command and sends it to the cloud for interpretation. It encodes the structure of the user’s command and content using Natural Language Processing to convert the words into meaning. Then, it takes the context input and decides the response based on the command they receive from the cloud and responds to the user by using Natural Language Generation technology. They work on Natural Language Technology techniques in which they try to remember what they have heard or done in the past in order to improve their response to future requests.

2. Home automation ecosystem integration

With the automation of domestic chores and increasing demand for smart home technology, there is a growing need to integrate and connect these smart devices like voice-enabled speakers, connected cameras, and home entertainment devices with other products for a seamless connected home experience. This process involves the design, development and integration of devices on heterogeneous platforms using frameworks like Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings and others.

3. Immersive 3D audio or 360-degree audio

A multidimensional audio is a full-sphere surround sound which gives a surreal experience to the listener. Amazon’s newly announced smart speaker, “Echo Studio”, supports 3D audio technologies like Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 reality audio for an immersive listening experience. 360 reality audio uses object-based spatial audio technology to provide an immersive sound experience. As users look for immersive experiences, 3D audio will soon become a must-have feature in smart speakers.

4. Connectivity technologies

Smart speakers require robust connectivity technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth mesh, and Zigbee, for a strong and smooth connection. This is to enable low latency audio streaming and multi-room audio synchronization.

5. The acoustical environment

The audio quality of the voice signal is largely governed by the acoustical environment and hardware design. The major challenge is to detect the "Wake" word and command recognition. Factors like noise, distance, reverberation & echo affects the sound quality. To overcome this, technologies like Beamforming, Automatic speech recognition, and Acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) are used.

Smart Speakers and Its Applications

Use cases of virtual assistants across retail, automotive, healthcare, smart homes

Smart Home

Smart speaker adoption is being driven by smart home aficionados. It has become the center of every smart home owing to their features and usability. Being one of the major applications of smart speakers, it enables all the connected home devices to be controlled wirelessly with just the user’s voice, which makes them an easy-to-use tool for busy people.

Smart office

Smart speakers that make lives easier and efficient for households in smart homes are now making their way to smart offices as well. They are well integrated with office surroundings to perform at their best. Some applications include reminders, news updates, meeting room reservations, calendars, announcements, etc. It enables us to save time and help to make better and quick business decisions.

Automotive

Demand for smart speakers in the Automotive sector is increasing, owing to its ability to connect with other devices. People are adopting this technology in their cars because it allows them to change the music & radio station without touching the music system, receive calls without using their smartphone while driving and thus ensures the safety of the driver. Users can access their home while driving and can access their cars while sitting in their homes. For example, if users want to switch on the air purifier before reaching the home, it allows you to command your speaker to switch it on while driving or if the user has left the car door unlocked, they have the option to lock the door by sitting at home with just one voice command.

Commercial

Retailers are right behind this emerging technology. They help consumers order and pay without visiting the store and retailers are capturing the rise in their sales whether it is a food order, buying groceries, buying event tickets or online shopping.

Healthcare

This voice-enabled smart device has the ability to improve the lives of elderly people. In the case of the elderly experiencing difficulties in getting up or having had a fall, they can alert the authorities by using the device. It can also remind them to take their medicines on time and hence, can act as their companion.

The Future of Smart Speakers

The number of IoT devices in everyday lives is fueling the shift towards smart devices. With increasing demand, most early adopters of smart speakers claim that it has become an essential part of their everyday life. The way smart speakers have evolved over the years, it has the potential to grow and develop even more in the future.

Personalized experience

Understanding human conversation and single line queries be it conversations, discussions, suggestions

Data privacy

Consumer data protection using new & distinct security measures to make users feel safe

Smarter features

Based on the user's past searches, learn different users voice and provide suggestions, reminders, alerts etc.

Faster response time

Won't require any wake-up word and will be able to respond at a faster rate than ever before

Touch and visual interaction

Voice with visual and touch integration will give a seamless experience and allow users to interact further with device

More compatible with other devices

More devices will be voice- enabled and integration with these devices will expand and diversify

Conclusion

Voice-enabled smart speakers are skyrocketing in popularity and adding another dimension to the home entertainment and home control. It is changing the way we perform other personal and household tasks and is becoming an essential part of our lives. It still has a lot of potential to change our lives in an unimagined manner, thanks to the powerful, interactive AI running within it. We will really see the emergence of a diversity of intelligent devices, which will push our perceptions and allow us to engage in entirely novel ways.

If you’d like to find out more about PathPartner and how we integrate smart features on a range of speakers and audio systems, write to us at marcom@pathpartnertech.com Or if you’d prefer, why not arrange a call with us?

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