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All Ears: Always-On Listening Devices Could Soon Be Everywhere

WSJ (paywall) – “…We’re moving toward a world in which everything with a plug or battery can respond to a voice command. Apple’s next AirPods could have many of the capabilities that Vesper claims its microphones will enable, such as built-in noise cancellation. (In the past, Apple has used several suppliers for its microphones.) Meanwhile, the CEO of Samsung’s consumer-electronics division recently told The Wall Street Journal that by 2020 his company plans to equip every single device it sells—from TVs to refrigerators—with microphones. It could be unnerving to be surrounded by listening devices, but the paradox is that as the technology develops, so does our ability to free these gadgets from having to connect to the internet. Consider the voice-controlled trash can from Simplehuman. Say “Open can” and it opens—and then closes on its own once the user walks away. That’s it. While it’s easy to make fun of a high-tech trash can, especially one that costs $200, this one tackles one of the biggest concerns that comes with smart assistants: the fact that they record what we tell them and send it back to their parent companies. Simplehuman’s trash can doesn’t do this, says Guy Cohen, the company’s director of electronics engineering. That’s because the latest microphones and their attached microprocessors process human speech in the gadget itself, without connecting to the cloud…”

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