Report: Digital assistants held back by poor microphone technology

microphone technology virtual assistants d1 siri voice control
Frustrated that Cortana, Google Now, or Siri just don’t seem to understand you? It might not be their fault, but the microphones within the phones themselves, a new report claims. The comments come from IHS Markit analyst Marwan Boustany, who told Bloomberg Thursday that microphone technology hasn’t advanced much since the launch of Siri.

The problems lie in the lack of progress in not being able to filter out background noise or focusing on far-away voices. We’ve become conditioned to work around these issues, though: How often do you see someone holding the phone up to their mouth when trying to ask Siri or Google Now a question, or catch yourself doing the same thing? Quite often, probably.

There’s not much Apple, Microsoft, or Google can do on their own to fix this. According to Bloomberg, these companies are now pressuring microphone manufacturers to improve their software and hardware to improve voice recognition.

Among the demands are for a higher signal-to-noise ratio, where the mic can isolate voices better and without the need to hold the device close, and a higher acoustic overload point, which is the point where a microphone can no longer distinguish a signal from background noise. This must be done in the same real estate as current mics, given manufacturers are already struggling to fit all the components into ever-shrinking devices.

While waiting for mic manufacturers to act, device manufacturers have turned to adding more mics in an attempt to overcome the shortcomings of current technologies. It’s not always effective in fixing the issue, and in turn can become a greater drain on battery. This is especially true considering most AI’s now are always listening for commands from the user, i.e. “Hey Siri.”

While some microphone manufacturers have turned to software in an attempt to fix the problem, a few are experimenting with entirely new designs such as newer manufacturer Vesper. That company is using piezoelectric technology, which it removes the static plate found in current designs — which often loses sensitivity over time — and should result in a better mic that also is a good deal more sensitive.

In any case, these new mic technologies will not be ready until at least mid-2017. That means for most popular phones, better microphones are not on the horizon for at least one, if not two, generations. Until then, you’ll still be greeted with that annoying phrase, “Sorry, I didn’t quite get that.”

Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Home Theater

A recent Twitter leak may show the upcoming AirPods 2 model

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.

Uber rolls out rewards program that lets its most loyal riders lock in prices

Uber launched a new loyalty program today called Uber Rewards. It offers frequent riders credits to Uber Eats, car upgrades, and the ability to lock in prices on their most traveled routes.

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.

Motorola Moto G7: Here’s everything we know

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.

T-Mobile's new Revvl 2, Revvl 2 Plus are now available for purchase

Last year, T-Mobile launched its own line of branded smartphones. As a follow-up to their predecessors, the carrier has unveiled the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus -- complete with a sleeker design. Here's everything you need to know.

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.