audience earsmart 320Just as the Intel Developer Conference (IDF) starts, Audience launches a powerful new audio processor designed for PCs: the earSmart 320. PC have been around forever, but while the audio playback has been worked on quite a bit by companies like Dolby and others, the audio recording capabilities of our computers have not progressed as quickly. Audience plans to change that, and the earSmart 320 is designed to bring all the audio know-how acquired from the smartphone world to the PC.

“Why?” you may ask. First of all, the PC is frequently used to chat and dictate. A lot of efforts have been geared towards handling a single user speaking, that’s why directional microphones are so common. Unfortunately, they don’t work when there are more than one person, or when the user gets out of the microphone “cone” in which he/she is supposed to stay in. I got that again just recently during a web chat.

Dictation and voice recognition could benefit directly from an audio stream that is optimally processed for machine speech recognition. It turns out that what a machine needs to analyze voice signals is not completely similar to what a human wants to hear. Audience has developed ASR Assist which is designed to adapt the signal so that voice recognition algorithms perform better. This is going to be even more useful since voice commands have become so trendy.

Audience says that the earSmart 320 brings these capabilities to the PC platform. Their 360 degrees voice feature, uses several microphones to outperform directional microphones and is capable of “zooming in” onto the person who’s currently speaking, and change target if someone else in a group speaks. The chip also has algorithms that will filter out background noise or echo (Super Wideband Noise suppression), both of which are non-trivial things to do.

While I haven’t heard this on a PC yet (that’s what IDF is for), I already know that the principle works because the earSmart 320 for PCs is nearly identical to the earSmart 325 version used in smartphones (like the Galaxy Note 2), including the ridiculously low amount of power it uses. There are differences to accommodate the PC platform, but they are essentially doing the same job, and using the same design. We don’t yet know which OEMs will offer this, but sound recording is going to get a whole lot better soon.

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