Intel Is Working on a Smart, Voice-Enabled Headset

Intel has been quietly working on a voice-enabled smart headset personal assistant, code-named Jarvis (which is also the name of Iron Man's artificially intelligent computer).

The fully integrated computer system is housed in a Bluetooth earpiece with a battery, speaker and microphones. It provides all-day battery life and is designed to be comfortable enough to be worn all day.

In addition to Intel-developed firmware and software, the Intel smart headset reference design uses Sensory's low-power, always-listening voice recognition technology. Jarvis will also be able to listen to commands and respond in its own voice, thus acting as a personal assistant and a voice control.

Intel unveiled the technology at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and at that event, some of the capabilities showcased included the following:

  • One shot – This feature allows the user to speak without pausing after being prompted. For example, the user can ask a question and get a response in one shot versus waiting for the personal assistant to respond to the initial inquiry.
  • Barge-in – This feature allows the user to stop the personal assistant from speaking by double tapping the smart headset or using a key phrase to stop it.
  • Polite notification – Using on-board sensors, this feature keeps track of the user’s current situation and can determine the best time to provide information, without interrupting.

Users will be able to pair Jarvis with their smartphones to get directions, look up restaurants, and do many of the other major functions that users have come to expect from Apple's Siri.  Intel says Jarvis will be able to deliver things that Siri can’t, in large part because it will not require an active Internet connection for its voice recognition processing to work. Instead, that work will be done on the device itself, and Intel thinks that will translate into better, faster performance for certain tasks.

But, Claudine Mangano, director of Intel’s Global Communications Group in the Mobile Computing Solutions Media Relations Team, 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 better," she wrote in an email. "It would work with a Siri or a Google Now."

Also, don’t expect to see Intel start selling Jarvis just yet. The company is quick to point out that Jarvis is only a reference design for now, and Intel’s partners would likely be the ones to take the design and turn it into a final, buyable product. 

"With regard to product timing, Intel's strategy is to create reference design devices and platforms ready to be used by customers in development of wearable products. Our goal is to productize these solutions, working closely with ecosystem partners," Mangano maintains. 

The Jarvis system is not Intel's only foray into voice. The chip manufacturer already has a deal in place with Nuance Communications to incorporate Nuance's next-generation Dragon Assistant on a variety of systems from Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo. It will add devices from Asus and Toshiba soon.

Additionally, SpeechTrans has partnered with Intel to increase access to its translation technology on Intel-based devices.

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