A supplier of microphones to manufacturers of smart home devices have recently announced a new power-efficient chip that allows headphones to initiate personal assistants only by saying trigger words.
In smart home devices, users can initiate personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant by uttering the respective trigger words for the virtual assistants. However, these smart home devices have to be connected continuously to a power supply to power the microphone and the chips needed to recognize and process the person's commands.
Headphones, on the other hand, rely on batteries for its power supply, and continuously powering chips and microphones that listen for people's commands will have a significant impact on the battery life of the devices. Manufacturers of headphones equipped with personal assistants often compromise by adding buttons that users could press to trigger the assistants.
However, Knowles Corp developed a chip that allows headphones equipped with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to listen in to commands coming from users and automatically awaken the personal assistant once the user states the trigger word.
This chip includes a microphone and a digital signal processor, components that are essential in recognizing commands coming from the user. In addition to the chip, Knowles prepared a reference design that manufacturers could use as a basis for developing headphones equipped with the new chipset, resulting in a reduction of time and resources needed to make new products.
One of the key selling points of the chip is its power-efficiency, which means that headphones can continuously listen to commands without significant impact on the device's battery life. Furthermore, this chipset allows manufacturers to match the products already offered by larger tech firms like Apple and Samsung. Devices from these two firms already sport the ability to trigger virtual assistants using voice, although Samsung's headphones only support a limited set of voice commands.
Knowles already partnered with several manufacturers that will use its chips to their audio products. Among these headphone makers include Anker and LinkPlay, and both tech firms will release headsets that run Amazon Alexa. Reports also emerged that the Bose is releasing a headset with Amazon Alexa, although it did not confirm if it will use Knowles' solution.
In the near future, there is a possibility that headsets that run Google Assistant may also utilize the chipset, although there is no word yet regarding tech firms interested in manufacturing one.
More devices now come equipped with personal assistants and developers of these virtual assistants are looking to further expand the reach of their software by entering new markets and diversifying the types of supported devices. For example, Google Assistant aims to increase its market share by expanding into smart speaker market, and the availability of headphones that support voice activation of Google Assistant should help improve the assistant's market share even further.
Aside from expanding the range of supported devices, Google is also improving its virtual assistant by increasing the number of commands that it supports. Within the last few months, the search giant announced that it now supports more than 4,000 different actions, although this number is far behind the current number of skills offered by Amazon Alexa, which numbered around 56,750 by the end of 2018.