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Intel headgear to offer fast offline voice processing

Jan 28, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Intel released more information about its Quark-based Jarvis headset reference design, claiming that it offers local voice processing for faster responses.

At CES, Intel demo’d its upcoming Jarvis headset, along with other products that run on its new dual-core, Linux-oriented Quark processor, such as a smartwatch and a baby monitor. In a Jan. 27 interview with Quartz, Intel’s “head of wearables” Mike Bell revealed some interesting offline voice processing capabilities of the audio-only Jarvis Bluetooth accessory.



Intel’s Jarvis reference design
(click image to enlarge)

According to Bell, Jarvis voice assistant will do all voice processing locally on the Quark, thereby avoiding the several second delay that often occurs when conversing with cloud-based voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Google Voice Search. Jarvis will offer “graceful degradation,” according to Bell, enabling it to work even when the linked smartphone is offline.

“It’s fine if [voice recognition systems] can’t make a dinner reservation because the phone can’t get to the cloud,” Quartz quotes Bell as saying. “But why can’t it get me Google Maps on the phone or turn off the volume?”

Local voice processing is available on PCs, but it’s unavailable on the Siri-ready iOS devices. On Android, it can only be found in an experimental application found on the developer version of Android 4.1 and higher.


Intel Edison

The Quartz story suggests, but does not confirm, that Jarvis is built with Intel’s Edison computer-on-module, which was also announced at CES. At the very least, however, we know it’s based on the new dual-core Quark, which supports a range of IoT applications from home automation to wearables. So far, Linux is the only supported OS Intel has mentioned for either the original single-core Quark or the dual-core model.

Jarvis is equipped with a Linux computer, a Bluetooth earpiece, as well as battery, speaker, and microphones. The voice recognition was announced as being based on Sensory Inc.’s technology, which we presume to be its Android-ready TrulyHandsfree Voice Control software and FluentChip firmware. Quartz did not mention Sensory, but said that Intel “partnered with an unnamed third party” to implement the local voice processing. Bell was also quoted as saying that Intel plans to sell the voice processing platform to mobile manufacturers that will add it to smartphones.

At CES, Intel touted Jarvis for offering always-on, Siri-like interactions. For example, users can double-tap Jarvis to stop the personal assistant from speaking. In addition, the assistant monitors user sensor data to determine the best time to provide information without interrupting.

 
As PCs slow, embedded gains Intel’s attention


Intel Quark

As the PC market slows, Intel is counting on its IoT, embedded, and mobile processors to pick up the slack. Intel announced 4Q earnings last week, revealing a mixed bag of numbers. Its $2.6 billion in earnings on revenue of $13.8 billion was up three percent from 4Q 2012, but PC processors lagged. Shortly afterward, Intel announced it was laying off or retiring 5 percent of its workforce in 2014, or about 5,300 employees.

In addition to the Quark, Intel’s new line-up of mobile chips include the “Bay Trail” Atom system-on-chips, such as the Atom Z3000 (tablet) and the Atom E3800 (embedded). An E3800-like version of the Celeron just showed up in a new Intel NUC mini-PC. The Atom was one of the bright spots in Intel’s 4th-quarter report, with revenues up 9 percent from 4Q 2012.

Next month at Mobile World Congress, we can expect the launch of Intel’s similarly 22nm, Tri-Gate 3D manufactured “Merrifield” Atom SoC for smartphones. We may also hear about two more mobile chips due to launch in 2014: the 14nm (“Airmont” ) Cherry Trail Atom aimed at smartphones and tablets and a 64-bit, 14nm Sofia SoC designed for entry-level smartphones, featuring an integrated baseband chip.

Intel isn’t diversifying everywhere, however. Last week, the company announced that Intel Media’s cloud-oriented OnCue TV service was being sold to Verizon for an undisclosed amount. Verizon plans to add the promising, but still developing technology to its FiOS fiber-optic platform to improve search and discovery of TV content.
 

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