Blog: How can audio companies survive if consumers expect every speaker to be smart?

Smartspeakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home have caught on at a pace rarely seen in the history of tech. Sales of the Echo were seven times higher on Amazon’s 2017 Prime Day Sales than they were for the same event last year (1), and the company is expected to sell 10 million Echo products (including the Echo Dot and Echo Show) in 2017 (2). Not since the iPod has an audio product captured so much attention from average consumers. Audio manufacturers have to wonder: Will consumers someday expect all of their speakers to be smart, able to accept and interpret voice commands as they play music, Internet radio and podcasts?


Clearly, mainstream audio manufacturers are rushing into the field. The recent IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin marked the debut of Google Assistant-equipped smartspeakers from two major brands – Panasonic with its SC-GA10, and Sony with its LF-S50G. At the first press event of September’s 2017 CEDIA Expo in San Diego, Origin Acoustics launched its Valet amplifiers, creating what is probably the first in-ceiling smartspeaker system. Earlier this year, Apple announced the HomePod, a Siri-powered smartspeaker scheduled to launch in December.


Considering the rapid expansion of the smartspeaker category, it seems likely that consumers will someday expect voice command in most or all of the audio (and probably video) products they buy. Of course, all of the products mentioned above are creations of large, diversified corporations that can afford to invest tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in developing smartspeakers. But what about smaller audio companies whose engineering expertise is mostly limited to traditional audio playback systems, and who cannot afford to invest huge sums in acquiring the skills needed to add reliable voice command functions to their products?


Fortunately, a new software package from DSP Concepts provides the core technologies needed for voice command systems – and could even reduce development costs rather than add to them. Audio Weaver® Voice UI includes all the algorithms needed for voice command products, including wake word recognition, beamforming, multi-microphone processing, acoustic echo cancelling, noise reduction, and more. Audio Weaver® Voice UI runs on many commonly used processing cores and DSP chips, and its powerful diagnostic capabilities make it easy for engineers to choose the most cost-effective processing hardware for any voice-command product.


DSP Concepts can also share its decades of combined expertise in designing microphone arrays and optimizing performance of voice-command systems. Some of this knowledge will soon be published in a series of white papers, beginning with “Fundamentals of Voice UI” which will be available this fall.


By embracing the technology of voice command, with the help of experts in the field, audio companies have the potential to reach new customers that were never interested in traditional audio systems, but who have quickly grown to love the advantages and convenience that voice command brings.


(1) Business Insider, July 14, 2017
(2) Digitimes, June 1, 2017