This article appeared in Microwaves & RF and has been published here with permission.
To shorten design cycles for true-stereo-wireless (TWS) earbuds and headphones, Knowles is debuting a development kit for OEMs of these near-ubiquitous earbuds and headphones that will enable them to incorporate advanced AI-based conversation enhancement.
Who Needs It and Why?
There are many OEMs producing TWS products, from the big players like Apple and Samsung to offshore makers of knockoff/low-budget devices. All of them need to quickly incorporate advanced features that will differentiate their products and, hopefully, catch consumers’ attention as they shop on Amazon to replace the earbuds they ran through the washer. Knowles’s TWS Development Platform lets designers explore and implement state-of-the-art feature sets.
The popularity of true-wireless-stereo (TWS) earphones and earbuds has exploded, in part because major smartphone makers like Apple have removed audio jacks from their handsets in recent years. But the convenience and expanding the functionality of TWS devices are enough to lure many users even if their phones still retain an audio jack.
According to market analyst Canalys, some 2 billion TWS products will be sold by 2024. Some 60% of TWS users want some form of conversation enhancement in their devices; it’s the most requested new feature. It’s a compelling reason for TWS OEMs to look carefully at Knowles’s platform.
Under the Hood
Knowles’s TWS Development Platform gives designers access to a huge palette of advanced features they can incorporate into their designs. It also, naturally, points them toward several of Knowles’s own transducer and audio-processing products.
The guts of the fully operational TWS development kit comprises a set of pre-tuned and pre-configured earbuds designed by Knowles paired with a powerful Bluetooth-enabled processing platform. The earbuds come designed with Knowles SiSonic MEMS microphone arrays, voice vibration sensors, and a choice of premium speaker driver assemblies with Knowles balanced armatures.
The Secret Sauce
If you have enough experience with TWS products, then you know that a frequent pain point for consumers is in using them for voice calls. Knowles has partnered with UK-based AI startup Chatable, which developed its AITransparency+ product explicitly for Knowles’s AISonic audio edge processor. AITransparency+ provides that sought-after conversation enhancement capability. It’s achieved using an on-chip, proprietary deep neural-network architecture that performs over 100 million AI calculations per second to enable selective acoustic enhancement of conversational speech signals without perceptible latency. AITransparency+ can be engaged with or without active noise cancellation (ANC). The result is clearer and more enjoyable voice-call experiences with TWS devices.
On the voice quality and intelligibility front, Knowles has partnered with Alango Technologies to fold in its Voice Communication Package (VCP) with multi-microphone beamforming, and its OnlyVoice technology, which intelligently combines external beamforming with internal sensor-based voice processing. Both are ported to Knowles’s AISonic processor to enable TWS devices to deliver outstanding voice pickup.
The TWS development platform is now available to TWS manufacturers. Contact Knowles for development support.