One of the main reasons personal assistants have finally come to prominence in the home is presumably because people feel less self-conscious than in the public domain.
For years, the likes of Apple’s Siri floundered because talking to your phone while in the office, or on public transport seemed a little silly. Now Microsoft is working on a solution that would allow tech fans to communicate with their digital helper a little more discreetly.
The company has patented (via Windows Central) a new “silent voice input” tech that enables users to whisper into a smartphone, smart watch or a tiny wireless microphone adapter in order to interact with the assistant.
However this isn’t your traditional whisper of speed nothings. Microsoft’s method involves whispering while breathing in. The technique is called ‘ingressive airflow’ and is designed to minimise distortion of the voice transmission.
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As evidenced by Microsoft accompanying diagrams, users will practically have to be kissing their devices in order to use the technology, which is potentially more socially awkward than just talking to the likes of Siri and Alexa in the first place.
However, the company believes its solution is desirable because it would make people more inclined to use the assistants without the risk of annoying and disturbing people in quiet environments and “without scattering private information to unintended audiences.”
“These are not technical issues but social issues,” the company said. “Hence there is no easy fix even if voice recognition system performance is greatly improved.”
“By placing the apparatus (e.g. microphone) of the apparatus very close to the user’s mouth with an small gap formed between the mouth and the apparatus, the proposed silent voice input solution can capture stable utterance signal with a very small voice leakage, and thereby allowing the user to use ultra-low volume speech input in public and mobile situations, without disturbing surrounding people.”
Microsoft’s announcement comes after Amazon rolled out a Whisper Mode for Echo devices, designed for Echo owners for use in times when the rest of the house demands a little peace and quiet.
Would you be more willing to use a personal assistant in public situations if you could simply whisper your command? Drop us a line @TrustedReviews on Twitter.