Speech Is Set to Dominate the Wearables Market

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on the ability of natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning resources to make the most of what automated speech recognition systems render and provide to them." Nonetheless, Meisel remains optimistic, stating,    "[There is] a lot of momentum in addressing those challenges with advances in machine learning."

Equally promising, Meisel says, are the many advances in noise-canceling technology that make using speech in noisy environments more possible and practical.

With this in mind, Meisel and others see almost limitless capabilities for voice in wearable devices.

"The speech applications are unlimited, given that the smartphone has an Internet connection, and anything that can be done in speech on the phone can be used by the wearable," Meisel says.

So far, the most common apps enable users to check for messages without very obviously pulling out a smartphone or tablet. A recent survey of prospective smart watch purchasers by ABI Research found that for most, text alerts, call alerts, and caller ID were among the most attractive features.

But Meisel says the wearables will have to do a lot more to succeed. "I'm not sure that the alert feature alone motivates [people to wear] the relatively unattractive devices, unless one simply wants to announce that [he is] a geek," he says. "If all the wearable does is encourage you to take your smartphone out of your pocket or purse, what value is it really adding?"

The Power Struggle

Power consumption is also an issue, as always-on, always-listening applications consume a lot of power. This is another area where speech technologies can help.

Sensory, for example, has been working with a number of device and processor manufacturers to incorporate its TrulyHandsFree voice trigger and activation solutions. One such OEM is Cadence Design Systems, which recently added Sensory's TrulyHandsFree technology to its Tensilica HiFi Mini Audio/Voice digital signal processors. CEVA also added Sensory's TrulyHandsFree trigger technology to its Teak-Lite-4 processor cores.

Rubidium is another provider of voice trigger technology, and it, too, is gaining traction in the wearables market. Among the digital signal processor manufacturers that have signed on in the past few months to integrate its technology are Cadence and NXP Semiconductors.

"Voice trigger and deeply embedded speech recognition have become a highly requested feature in many consumer products, such as mobile phones, hands-free car kits, wearable devices, automotive multimedia and infotainment, and smart TVs," said Shlomo Peller, CEO and founder of Rubidium, in a statement. "This solution provides the opportunity for customers to embed voice user interfaces and security into their latest mobile devices, while at the same time staying within their tight low-power budgets."

The Eyes Have It

So far, much of the attention in the wearables market has been on devices that are worn as eyeglasses, with Google Glass certainly being the most prominent. By simply speaking to Google Glass, users can have their words translated, conduct Web searches, send messages, get directions, take and share pictures and videos, start Google+ hangouts, get the weather, check the status of flights, and more.

Other companies are already launching apps that work with the Google Glass platform. IPatientCare, for example, in late February introduced a Google Glass app named miGlass, a real-time voice, video, and image capture solution that allows for nearly effortless communications between patients and their healthcare providers. MiGlass can also be used as a reminder tool (alerting users when a medication should be taken, for example).

Accenture and KPN are working on an interactive television viewing app that will link Google Glass with Accenture's Video Solution. Its main uses will be control of TVs, remotes, set-top boxes, and companion devices and as a second screen for viewing TV programming.

While Google Glass is certainly the most robust, and the furthest along in the development cycle, Google is not the only company developing smart glass technology. Intel has been quietly working on a voice-enabled smart headset personal assistant, code-named Jarvis, which it first introduced in January at CES.

Jarvis uses Sensory's low-power, always-listening voice recognition technology. It can also respond in its own voice. Users will be able to pair Jarvis with their smartphone to get directions, look up restaurants, and do many of the other things they have come to expect from Siri, Apple's mobile personal assistant.

Claudine Mangano, a director of Intel's Global Communications Group, says the technology is not meant to replace Siri or Google Now. "The Intel smart headset is designed to complement today's personal assistants and help make the experience 

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