Speech recognition software company Nuance is working with chip makers on how to build a chipset for a mobile device that would let users get assistance from a smartphone without touching it—even when it's in power-saving "sleep" mode—by simply speaking to it.
Vlad Sejnoha, Nuance Communications' chief technology officer, says the company is working with "a number of" chip companies who are "thinking very actively" about how to make this sort of persistent listening work in a low-power way.
Burlington, Massachusetts-based Nuance is considered a market leader in speech-recognition, which has grown dramatically in importance in recent years as smartphones increasingly feature voice-powered personal-assistant capabilities that can do things like check the weather or find a sushi restaurant. Nuance, which makes a virtual assistant app called Dragon Go!, is also widely believed to be the voice provider for Apple's digital assistant, Siri.
Sejnoha believes that within a year or two you'll be able to talk to your smartphone even as it lies idle on a desk, asking it questions such as, "When's my next appointment?" The phone will be able to detect that you are speaking, wake itself up, and accomplish the task at hand.
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