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Microsoft patent suggests whispering technique for using voice assistants in public


Microsoft is attempting to address a barrier to the use of voice assistants in public places by having the user inhale while whispering to a device held right next to his or her mouth, Engadget reports.

The patent, for an invention titled “Silent Voice Input,” notes that voice input is rarely used in public, due not to technical but social issues. A user inhale-whispering while holding the voice assistant-embedded device within 2 millimeters can make the voice commands inaudible to other nearby, but without the distortion that whispering into a closely-held microphone often produces. Inhale-breathing avoids the “pop noise” associated with sounds made by the letters “f” and “p,” according to the patent filing, which was published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The acoustic model would have to be trained for the different type of utterance, and could use an amplifier on detecting inhale-whispering to activate “silent voice mode.” The patent document also describes the possible use of design features such as a shield to block nasal airflow from interfering with the microphone.

The patent refers to rings, watches, and television remote controls, in addition to smartphones and general IoT devices as potential form factors for the technology’s deployment.

Voice biometric technology company ID R&D was recently accepted into Microsoft’s IoT and AI Insider Labs program.

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