QUALCOMM HAS ENOUGH on its chip plate, but it's nevertheless decided to crank out some silicon to give smart speakers a kick up the jacksie.
The chip maker's new QCS400 chipset has not only been designed to make smart speakers sound better but also make them, er, smarter.
The chip offers support for audio tech like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and it also comes with the chops for faster voice processing, meaning speakers with support for voice commands, such as the Sonos One, shouldn't mangle the instructions barked at them as much.
A lot of flaky responses to voice commands directed at in-built Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant virtual assistants can be attributed to dodgy WiFi connectivity. But Qualcomm's QCS400 improves the stability of a smart speaker's network connection and thus boost the accuracy of voice control.
It will also be able to carry put out the processing of voice commands locally so that a smart speaker doesn't become a complete dunce if it loses an internet connection.
"These new SoCs raise the bar on both feature integration and power performance for smart audio compared to our previous technology. This will help manufacturers to more easily overcome significant technical challenges and build smarter speakers and assistants with more intuitive voice UI, connected user experiences and exceptional sound quality," said Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity at Qualcomm Technologies.
"The next generation of smart audio products must be robust, highly interoperable, feature-rich, and smart, yet extremely power efficient. Qualcomm Technologies helps to meet these needs with our new SoCs, which are unique and comprehensively integrated to combine enhanced compute, AI acceleration, and low-latency audio distribution in a single chipset."
That's a lot of silicon willy-waving and corporate speak. But Patel has a point, given the QCS400 comes equipped with Qualcomm's AI Engine, dual digital signal processors, and up to four-core configurations.
A load of support for decent audio connectivity, such as aptX, and support for 32 channel audio, should give audio hardware makers the scope to better fine tune and boost the audio performance of their products, especially smaller units that rely heavily on digital signal processing. µ
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