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Audio sol'n takes smart home control to new heights

Posted: 08 Jan 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Conexant  voice control  LG  smart home  ARM Cortex 

Moving past touch and gesture-based controls, we now welcome technologies that allow control using the human voice. Enabling a person to control electronics has become a reality. Speak and it happens, this is especially important in smart homes where the smart kitchen alone will be a $10B industry in the coming years.

I just spoke to Saleel Awsare, Conexant's SVP and GM and we talked about some new audio solutions, two hardware-related and one software innovation just introduced at CES 2016.

RoomAware Optimiser

The first, and the one I would rank first among the three in my estimation, is the RoomAware Optimiser, a processing solution to enhance the listener experience with TV speakers. The software is a part of Conexant's AudioSmart family and has been snatched up by LG to provide a customised audio experience.

Since most people, like me, use the built-in TV speakers when they watch their TV, we were not aware that the audio sound can be enhanced. LG TVs, using their Magic Remote with its built-in microphone (an important part of this overall system) and Magic Sound Tuning will experience a much improved audio sound due to the automatic adjustment for room acoustics combined with the particular location of the TV in the room; nothing extra needs to be done by the listener.

My first job out of engineering school was with Empire Scientific Corp., a high end audio speaker, turntable, phonograph cartridge and amplifier company in the 70's. I designed speakers in an anechoic chamber and then tested them in a special room set up with a rug and curtains and sofa like a typical living room. Would also test the speakers in a room with a hard floor and bare walls with no window curtains and wooden furniture with no padded material. The sound difference was quite pronounced.

Conexant's AudioSmart

Conexant's AudioSmart

So, not knowing what room acoustics in which a TV will be sitting will greatly help or hurt the sound. Of course, you can manually adjust your TV equaliser settings nowadays, but there will be no need for that with the new Conexant/LG system.

CX20926: Low power audio/sensor for voice control of portables/wearables

The second most important, in my mind, is the CN20926 chip, a low power, audio/sensor SoC that enables voice control in battery-operated devices. Can you say, 'Voice control for wearables! And portable products?' How about your battery powered TV remote? Or what about your gaming headset?

Powered by an integrated ARM Cortex M0+ 32bit microprocessor, this IC includes a direct sensor interface that allows for the combining of contextual information from motion sensors with audio information from microphones for a greatly enhanced audio experience. In addition, Conexant's high-performance, dual-core 32bit DSP has up to 100MHz operation. The addition of two stereo Pulse Density Modulated (PDM) digital microphone interfaces as well as an I2C interface increases flexibility of the system.

This technology will wake up voice input remotes with the push of a button, allow you to speak and have your devices listen and respond to your command. Examples are your smartphone with next-gen personal assistants as well as a plethora of IoT products and solutions.

This IC now allows longer life in these battery operated devices with the use of its ultra-low power state.

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