Archive

Posts Tagged ‘audio’

Intel Quark S1000 “Sue Creek” Processor to Support On-Chip Speech Recognition

June 19th, 2017 3 comments

Intel may have announced plans to discontinue several of their IoT boards, but based on some documents I received, the company has not given up on the Quark family, although they may have given up on the Intel architecture for low power microprocessor, as Intel Quark S1000 – codenamed “Sue Creek” – will feature two Tensilica LX6 cores (yes, just like ESP32), and is designed to handle speech recognition at the edge (e.g. locally), so some of your voice commands should still work when Internet is down.

Intel Quark S1000 key features and specifications:

  • Digital Signal Processors
    • Dual Tensilica LX6 cores @ 400 MHz with HiFi3 DSP
    • Single precision scalar floating-point instructions
    • 16KB 4-way I$; 48KB 4-way D$
    • Up to 2400 DMIPS, 3.2 GMACS (16×16), 800 MFLOPS of Compute
  • Speech Accelerators
    • A GMM (Gaussian Mixture Model) and neural network accelerator
    • Low power keyboard and limited vocabulary recognition
    • Up to 9.6 GMACS (16×16) of compute
  • Internal Memory
    • 4MB shared embedded SRAM
    • 64KB embedded SRAM for streaming samples in low power mode
  • External Memory Interfaces
    • Up to 8MB external 16-bit PSRAM
    • Up to 128MB external SPI flash
  •  I/O Interfaces
    • Host I/O – SPI for command and control, I2S for streaming audio, IRQ, reset, wake, optional USB 2.0 HS device
    • Microphone – I2S/TDM 9.6 MHz max. bit clock
    • Digital Microphone – 4 PDM ports 4.8 MHz max. bit clock
    • Speaker – I2S/TDM 9.6 MHz max. bit clock
    • Instrumentation – I2C master @ 100/400 MHz
    • Debug – UART Tx/Rx/RTS?CTS up to 2.4 Mbaud/s
    • GPIO – 10 mA sink/source, 8x PWM outputs
  • Power Management / Consumption
    • Low power idle (memory retention); voice activity detection; play through; full active
    • Clock and power gating support
    • < 20 mW voice activity detection
    • < 250 mW full active
  • Package (preliminary) – FCCSP132 7.45 x 8.3mm 0.6/0.7mm pitch staggered/orthogonal
  • Temperature Range – Commercial: 0 to 70 °C; industrial: -40 to +85 °C

The diagram above shows Quark S100 is supposed to be connected to a host processor providing network connectivity, getting commands over SPI, audio over I2S, and the Intel processor can handle some speech recognition likely for a limited subset of words, and use cloud based recognition for more complex requests. The solution could be used in product like Google Home or Amazon Echo look-a-likes, or other voice-controlled appliances.

I don’t know when the processor will be available, and I could not find any information online yet.

Qualcomm Announces Audio Platforms for Smart Speakers, Headphones, and Hearables

June 15th, 2017 No comments

Smart speakers are getting a lot of buzz recently with products like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and many home automation products are advertised with Amazon’s Alexa support, so that they can be controlled by voice commands. Qualcomm is now going after this market, and others audio markets via 5 new platforms for streaming audio, high resolution audio, wireless audio, USB -C audio devices – due to the “death” of the 3.5mm headphone jack -, and hearables.

The five platforms include:

  1. Bluetooth and BLE Audio SoCs such as Qualcomm CSRA68100 for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The SoC comes with flash, DSP, a 2-ch audio CODEC, USB & I/Os interfaces.
  2. Qualcomm QCC3xxx entry-level Bluetooth audio SoC for mid to low-cost Bluetooth headsets and speakers.
  3. Qualcomm WHS9420 (192kHz/24-bit audio) and WHS9410 (entry-level) USB-C audio SoC for USB-C headphones
  4. Qualcomm DDFA Digital Amplifier Technology with CSRA6xxx amplifier
  5. Smart Speaker Platform shown above based on APQ8017 or APQ8009 (Snapdragon 212) SoCs, and DDFA amplifier, and interacting with Bluetooth and USB-C solutions listed above.

The Smart Speaker Platform will support multi-mic far-field voice capability with “highly responsive voice activation and beamforming technologies”, multi-room audio streaming through Qualcomm AllPlay, and AptX HD audio technology. Support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Google Cast Audio is coming later this year,

You may be able to find more details about Android and Linux solutions based on APQ8009 and APQ8017 on that Qualcomm page (provided you can gain access).

The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform is expected to be available in Q3 2017.

AIY Projects Voice Kit Transforms Raspberry Pi 3 Into Google Home, Comes Free with Raspberry Pi Magazine

May 5th, 2017 11 comments

We’ve just reported about the preview release of Google Assistant SDK that works on the Raspberry Pi 3, and other boards with a microphone, speakers, and access to Internet. The Raspberry Pi foundation and Google have now made it even easier, as they launched AIY Projects Voice Kit with a Google Voice HAT, a speaker, a stereo microphone Voice HAT board, a button, a few cables, and a cardboard case.

You’ll just need to add your own Raspberry Pi 3, follow the instructions to assemble kits, load and setup the software. Once this is all done, you’ll be able to press the top button, asking anything you want to Google Voice, including the weather.

Price? Sort of free, as it comes with MagPi 57 magazine, where you’ll also find detailed instructions for the kit. Google AIY Projects got its name from a mix between (DIY) and artificial intelligence (AI), and considering it’s “Projects” and not just “Project”, we can expect more kits in the future.

Google Assistant SDK Turns Your Raspberry Pi 3 into Google Home

May 3rd, 2017 7 comments

Google Home allows you to select music, control your home automation system and more with voice commands, but now you can do the same with a Raspberry Pi 3 as Google released a developer preview (alpha v1) of the Google Assistant API that works on Raspberry Pi 3, and other development boards running Debian or Ubuntu.
Functionalities are limited right now, with RPC API and Python sample code, but it only works with English language, and features such as timers & alarm, playing music, news, or podcasts, and precise location are not supported. Location is determined using your IP address only, and if you’re using some third party services / products such as Uber or Hue, you’ll need an actual Google Home device for initial setup.

Google has provided instructions to use Google Assistant SDK with Raspberry Pi 3 board. First you’ll need a USB microphone ($5.99 on Amazon), and speakers connected via USB or the 3.5 mm audio jack. After installing Raspbian on the board, you’ll need to configure a developer project and account settings, configure and test audio (with arecord/aplay), and finally install Python and the Assistant API sample:

Once this is done, authorize and run the sample:

Press Enter, ask something, and your Raspberry Pi 3 board should answer.

Since you just need audio and network working on the hardware, this should also work on other development boards, and Google has indeed provided instructions for other platforms too. Basically the same steps, but less detailed, except for the authorization part which seems a little more complicated.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

Google Releases Android O Developer Preview with UI & Audio Improvements, Better Performance, etc…

March 22nd, 2017 No comments

Nearly exactly one year after Android N developer preview release, Google has now announced the release of Android O developer preview in order to get feedback from the developer community before the official release of Android 8.0? Oreo? in Q3 2017.

So what’s new so far in Android O? Here are some of the changes:

  • Background activity limits –  Automatic limits on what apps can do in the background for implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates.
  • Notification channels –  New app-defined categories for notification content for better control from the use, as user may only block or change the behavior from one channel, instead of applying the same behavior to all notifications from a given app. For example, a News app may have notifications for Technology, Sports, Politics, International, etc…
  • Autofill APIs – Platform support for autofill, where users can select an autofill app, similar to the way they select a keyboard app, with the app securely storing  addresses, user names, and even passwords.
  • PIP for handsets and new windowing features – Picture in Picture (PIP) display is now working on phones and tablets, so users can continue watching a video while they’re answering a chat or hailing a car. Other window features include overlay window and multi-display support.
  • Font resources in XML – Apps can now use fonts in XML layouts as well as define font families in XML — declaring the font style and weight along with the font files.
  • Adaptive icons  Icons that can be displayed in different shapes, e.g. round or rounded square based on a mask selected by the device. Animated interactions with the icons are also supported.
  • Wide-gamut color for apps – Android developers of imaging apps can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display.
  • Connectivity 
    • Support for high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs such as LDAC codec.
    • Wi-Fi Aware support, aka Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN), allowing to discover and communicate over WiFi without an Internet access point
    • Extension of ConnectionService APIs to enable third party calling apps integrate with System UI and operate seamlessly with other audio apps.
  • Keyboard navigation –  Better use of “arrow” and “tab” navigation key for systems connected to keyboard such as Chrome OS with Google Play.
  • AAudio API for Pro Audio –  Native API designed for high-performance, low-latency audio.
  • WebView enhancements –  Multiprocess mode enabled by default, and new API for errors and crashes handling.
  • Java 8 Language APIs and runtime optimizations  – New Java Language APIs, such as java.time API. Android Runtime is up to 2x faster on some application benchmarks. 

Google has provided system images for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel C, and Pixel XL devices. You’ll find more details about the preview on Android Developer website.

Categories: Android, Chrome OS Tags: Android, audio, battery, google, oreo, sdk

$32 Bluetooth 4.1 Audio Transmitter and Receiver Comes with S/PDIF Ports, a 3.5mm Audio Jack

March 20th, 2017 7 comments

As I browsed through DealExtreme new arrivals, I found a type of device I had not noticed in the past: a Bluetooth Audio transmitter and receiver that come with optical SPDIF input and output, as well as 3.5mm AUX port, and sells for $31.99 shipped on DX.

Let’s have a look at the hardware first

  • Audio In & Out – 3.5mm AUX port, SPDIF IN, SPDIF OUT
  • Buttons – Tx/Rx mode selection, SPDIF/AUX selection, multifunction button
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 with 10 meters range; use aptX low latency audio
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Battery – 350mAh rechargeable battery good for 15 hours on a charge; Charging time: 2 hours
  • Dimensions – 6 cm x 6 cm x 1.84 cm

The little device ships with a micro USB Cable for charging, a 3.5mm AUX cable, an optical TOSLINK cable, an RCA Cable, and a user manual.

TX mode allows you to connect your devices without Bluetooth such as older TVs, computers without Bluetooth, MP3 players, etc… to Bluetooth speakers using one of the three provided cables.

RX mode allows you to play audio from your smartphone or tablet to your audio systems lacking Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity such as wired headphones, car stereo, or home stereo system.

There aren’t any reviews on DX yet, but the product is also sold on Amazon US, with users’ reviews generally positive, except one person complaining that

Description states “continuous use” with cable and directions state “Do not leave charging cable connected “

So you can’t leave the micro USB cable attached all the time, which can be a pain. However, another reviewer claims that “it also supports working while charging; you can plug in or unplug the external USB power charger any time you want“, so go figure.

If you only care about a specific use case, there are cheaper options. For example, I’ve been using a Bluetooth FM transmitter in my car, which I bought for about $10 in order to listen music from a micro SD card or my smartphone. I’ve been using for several months, and it works well enough provided you are happy with “FM radio” audio quality.

Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: audio, bluetooth, spdif

Avegant Glyph a Headphone with Two DLP Projectors Acting as Your Own Portable Home Theater

March 7th, 2017 2 comments

I reviewed my first and only Android VR headset last year, and while it was fun to use for short periods, I found it very uncomfortable to my eyes and head for periods of usage over 15 minutes, and would definitely not watch an entire movie on such device. Avegant’s engineers worked for a headset for the military that had to be used for long periods of time, and they found they could adapt their product for consumer use and create Avegant Glyph, and alternative to VR headset that looks like a stereo headset, but also includes two 720p DLP projectors placed right in front of your eyes, hereby creating your own private, and portable – home theater.

Avegant Glyph specifications:

  • Resolution – 1280x720p per eye via 2 million micro-mirrors
  • Aspect Ratio – 16:9
  • Field of view – ~40° diagonal
  • Diopter Adjustment – +1 to -7 range
  • Adjustable IPD, and projectors vertical position.
  • Head Tracking – 9 Axis IMU
  • Video & Audio Input – micro HDMI
  • Audio-Only Input – 3.5mm TRRS (standard AUX)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz; Dynamic Range: 95 dB
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Battery – 2,060 mAh Li Ion battery with up to 4 hours video playback, and unlimited passive audio
  • Dimensions – 190.5 x 190.5 x 101.6 mm
  • Weight – 411 grams

The device weight is about the same as the virtual reality headset I used, but I can still believe it might be more comfortable due to the different weight distribution. It’s also not a standalone device, so you need to connect a source via the micro HDMI port and/or audio jack, which in many cases means purchasing a XXX to micro HDMI adapter. The Glyph firmware can be upgraded for “enhanced features and capabilities”. Beside watch 2D and 3D movies, it can also be used for 3D gaming, flying drones, private mode while connected to laptop, etc…  Note that contrary to VR headset, you still have peripheral vision, which may be an downside since it’s less immersive, and an upside, as you are still aware of the environment around you.

Charbax interviewed a company’s representative as they showcased the Glyph at Mobile World Congress 2017.


Avegant Glyph first started to sell in the US last year, and some larger blog already reviewed it, such as Wired and Engadget, and while they really liked the video and audio experience, they still found it to be a little uncomfortable to use for longer duration, although it was an improvement over VR headsets. Customer feedback on Amazon, where is it sold for $499, is positive on average, but with many mixed reviews, possibly because the company made some adjustments to their product since they fist launched it. You’ll find more information on Avegant website.

Netgem SoundBox is a Speaker with Built-in Set-Top Box Features

February 25th, 2017 1 comment

Netgem, a company specializing in Connected TV & Home, has sent a press release about profit growth, and two new “innovations int its smart home roadmap” with voice control with Amazon, and SoundBox, a connected speaker which embeds set-top box technology.


Netgem does not sell directly to consumers, but instead sell its products and solutions to service providers, and they have not provided a great deal of technical details. But we still know the company has improved Netgem Home Platform, a cloud service allowing the deployment and management of multi-screen features, content discoverability, with support for multi-room, multi-source music service through technology from Voxtok.

SoundBox will then offer both video and audio service, and be controlled by voice using Amazon Alexa. The SoundBox will be customized for each Telco to adapt to the needs of local markets.

A few more details may eventually surfaced on Netgem’s SoundBox product’s page. They’ll also demonstrate their solutions at Mobile World Congress 2017.