Sensory, Inc. has announced a major innovation in hands-free technology: its TrulyHandsfree solution can now enable low-power wake words directly on any Android or iOS app without the need for special hardware or digital signal processors. That means mobile apps can now have always-listening speech activation, just like the virtual assistants that popularized the function, without draining your smartphone’s battery.
Bringing always-listening wake words to mobile apps is a major milestone for Sensory, but also the industry at large. The promise of hands-free interface is to enable full accessibility and optimal user experience via voice command, but as of now the experience can be limiting, as many applications can’t even be opened easily without touchscreen input, and those that can suck up battery power as they listen for commands. The TrulyHandsfree innovation announced today is the first step to enabling a full mobile experience that is, in fact, truly hands free from wake-up to sleep mode.
The impressive capability is made possible by “little-big” – an approach to wake wording that led to significant power savings: an over 80 percent reduction in power consumption. Essentially, the process uses a less complex model to evaluate an interesting event, judging whether or not said event warrants the more complex large model. Obviously, the “little” half of the process consumes less power, and the more resource heavy “big” half is only activated by necessity. The end result is a sort of two-gear system allowing for the most efficient use of power without sacrificing the high quality user experience demanded by today’s speech activated user interfaces.
“Hands-free operation for voice control has become the norm, and application developers are now looking to create hands-free wake words for their own apps,” said Todd Mozer, CEO of Sensory. “For example, we recently helped Google’s Waze accept hands-free voice commands by supplying them with Sensory’s ‘OK Waze’ wake word that runs when the app is open. With previous versions of TrulyHandsfree, having our always-on wake word engine listening for the OK Waze wake word during a short trip would have had minimal effect on a smartphone’s battery, but for longer trips a more efficient system was desired – so we created it.”
The demand for wake words on apps is indicative of the growing popularity of hands-free interfaces across a growing range of connected devices, whether they be smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, smart speakers or otherwise. Bolstered by AI and made easy to use by support for natural speech, many users prefer to talk to their devices as a matter of course and convenience. The TrulyHandsfree update supporting mobile app wake words will therefore come as crucial step in the interface’s evolution.
According to a press release announcing the TrulyHandsfree upgrade, the SDK updates enabling low-power wake words on mobile apps are currently being rolled out on Android and iOS.