EETimes – Not on Talking Phrases



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I used to be nearly to do an interview with of us at Sonos final week when my Sonos One speaker started enjoying out of the blue — and loudly. I yelled to Alexa to cease, however the “music” — which sounded a bit like a podcast, a bit like music — saved going. I went over to the speaker, shouted at Alexa once more, then turned down the amount manually.

It occurred a pair extra instances — with growing quantity — and I had a picture of the Sonos of us funning with me. I’m unsure in the event that they appreciated the irony of the state of affairs as a lot as I did. Let’s simply say it’s embarrassing — and unusual — to need to stand up from an interview twice and go futz together with your rogue Sonos speaker while you’re doing an interview with Sonos.

Once I went into the opposite room after the interview to lament my plight, Liz, my accomplice, confirmed me her iPhone display with an AirPlay notification. Apparently, AirPlay kicked in when she left the room simply as my interview was supposed to start. She had scooped up our cat Mulligan, tucked her telephone in her again pocket and in some way AirPlay engaged, enjoying one thing neither she, Mulligan, nor I’d ever select.

I attempted to duplicate how that would’ve occurred, and it took me about three clicks through my Spotify app to get to the AirPlay possibility. Liz doesn’t even use AirPlay, however in some way within the jostling to get Mulligan out earlier than interview time, Spotify and AirPlay should’ve teamed up. I guessed that as a result of it was a command initiated by Liz’s iPhone over an Apple-only communications protocol, Alexa went FUBAR and didn’t reply to voice instructions.

I offered my idea to Sonos by e mail — that possibly AirPlay and Alexa aren’t on talking phrases — however a Sonos spokeswoman downplayed the idea. Alexa ought to have the potential to cease the music, “even when it began from AirPlay,” she stated. All I do know is Alexa usually goes off-script round right here, whether or not it’s a Sonos speaker or an Echo. For that matter, so do Siri and Google Assistant.

Including to the tech bedlam, once I checked out Liz’s telephone display, a message got here up that stated, “Enter the on-screen code for ‘Roku Participant.’ We’ve by no means used AirPlay with Roku. If we wished to — which could really be enjoyable to see our images on TV — what code would we’d like and the place would we discover it? Simply to cap off a weird day, the TV turned itself on and went to the Roku display.

Lots goes on behind our backs within the software-driven tech world. Units are speaking to one another on a regular basis, performing handshakes and spitting bits and bytes to one another whereas we’re out of the loop. On the identical time, AI and machine studying are doing extra to present us higher options with out our having to raise a finger. A variety of instances that’s a great factor.

Take the explanation for the Sonos name, as an example. We had been discussing a brand new speaker coming Oct. 5. In describing the center of the alternative Beam soundbar, Scott Fink, principal product supervisor, informed us the compact $449 soundbar, a step-down model of the tricked-out $899 Arc, makes use of software program and “psychoacoustics” to create the sense of immersive audio.

I do know in a blind check I’d select devoted {hardware} — upfiring drivers within the Sonos Arc, or higher but, seven audio system and a subwoofer — over software-created sound, however I don’t have that selection in a Manhattan condo. The Beam is simply over 25 inches extensive versus the 45-inch-wide Arc. The Beam could possibly be one of many few good decisions I’ve for Dolby Atmos if I need a extra immersive sound expertise. And I do.

Atmos is totally different from earlier surround-sound codecs that had been primarily based on sounds in “channels.” Atmos is predicated on “audio objects” in Dolby-ese. Filmmakers can use Atmos to decide on exactly the place sounds originate and the place they transfer in a scene, together with above you. On playback, Atmos decoders are supposed to position these sounds the place filmmakers wished them to be heard by the viewers.

How will that work with out devoted transducers capturing sounds to particular areas? Scott Fink, principal product supervisor at Sonos, described speaker arrays in phrases I hadn’t thought of earlier than, calling Sonos’ speaker arrays “the software program that’s coordinating all of the playback and interplay throughout the audio system contained in the sound bar.”

A standard soundbar has, say, a left speaker that coordinates sound with an explosion on the left facet of the display. Sonos makes use of all of its transducers to supply the sound, however simply the left audio system “develop or construct the sound,” whereas the middle and proper audio system “cancel out the sound in that route.” That enables the Beam to direct sound extra exactly across the room, he stated.

Being a multiroom music firm, Sonos additionally has a robust curiosity in Atmos’ position in music. In parallel with the Dolby Atmos soundbar launch, Sonos stated it’s planning to supply Amazon’s premium Extremely HD and Dolby Atmos Music later this 12 months through the Amazon Music streaming service, “giving listeners the flexibility to expertise the best high quality streaming music and immersive audio.”

The longer term route doesn’t come as a shock. I’ve heard Sonos CEO Patrick Spence say the corporate illustrates “software program consuming audio” and that Sonos is “more and more fascinated by our merchandise as greater than {hardware}.”

That irked a whole lot of prospects final 12 months when their S1 Sonos audio system now not had the processing energy to deal with software program updates for the sorts of Atmos-y options solely the S2 platform may ship. Nevertheless it means ahead movement for many who need the most recent and biggest.

Me? I’ll seemingly improve to the brand new Beam to get the most recent options. With the ability to get a surround-sound like impact from a two-foot extensive soundbar is fairly cool.

Now I simply hope AirPlay and Alexa study to play good.