Steven Cherry Hi, this is Steven Cherry, for Radio Spectrum.
The Literary Digest, a now-defunct magazine, was founded in 1890. It offered—despite what you’d expect from its name—condensed versions of news-analysis and opinion pieces. By the mid-1920s, it had over a million subscribers. Some measure of its fame and popularity stemmed from accurately predicting every presidential election from 1916 to 1932, based on polls it conducted of its ever-growing readership.
Smartphones for several years now have had the ability to listen non-stop for wake words, like “Hey Siri” and “OK Google,” without excessive battery usage. These wake-up systems run in special, low-power processors embedded within a phone’s larger chip set. They rely on algorithms trained on a neural network to recognize a broad spectrum of voices, accents, and speech patterns. But they only recognize their wake words; more generalized speech recognition algorithms require the involvement of a phone’s more powerful processors.
Today, Qualcomm announced that Snapdragon 8885G, its latest chipset for mobile devices, will be incorporating an extra piece of software in that bit of semiconductor real estate that houses the wake word recognition engine. Created by Cambridge, U.K. startup Audio Analytic, the ai3-nano will use the Snapdragon’s low-power AI processor to listen for sounds beyond speech. Depending on the applications made available by smartphone manufacturers, the phones will be able to react to such sounds as a doorbell, water boiling, a baby’s cry, and fingers tapping on a keyboard—a library of some 50 sounds that is expected to grow to 150 to 200 in the near future.