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Inspired by insect ears, Soundskrit wants to make microphones magically directional

Comments are closed Inspired by insect ears, Soundskrit wants to make microphones magically directional Comments are closed

Voice control is everywhere these days, but to hear people effectively from every direction, devices like Amazon’s Echo need to have a whole collection of microphones in them — but they take up space, require extra processing power, and restrict industrial design. Soundskrit is a brand new company that aims to replace those many mics with a single one that can clearly hear and separate sound from multiple sources and directions.

The Soundskrit device easily tracked two separate voices speaking from different directions simultaneously, quickly providing independent recordings and transcripts of each one; you can see a video demo here. It could just as easily ignore one voice in order to hear another better, or focus on accepting sound from a single direction, such as in front of a camera.

I’m sure you can imagine half a dozen situations off the top of your head where such a capability might be useful: smart home devices, video recording, meetings and conference calls… anywhere you or a device wants to hear one sound but not another.

This can already be done, of course, but it’s done in a rather clumsy way, by taking the signals from multiple microphones and applying algorithms to sort out the noise, compare waveforms to determine which is stronger where to get an idea of direction, and so on. It’s complex and ends up reducing the quality of the recorded sound, especially in the lower registers.

The design of the company’s prototype microphone was inspired by insects, many of which have highly acute “hearing” that’s accomplished by sensing the way air moves across tiny hairs or other pressure-sensitive structures.

Soundskrit’s tech does a similar thing with a special membrane on a custom chip. Sound enters from all sides and based on how it vibrates the membrane, its origin can be determined with a pretty decent accuracy. And it does it without compromising the quality or tone of the sound.

Research on this topic goes back many years, but these students decided to make a go of turning it into a product after encountering it in their studies. They’ve raised an $800,000 (Canadian) seed round from TandemLaunch, a Montreal-based incubator that focuses on commercializing research.

For now the team is just getting started and the device is far from being in a state that could be included in a real product. But once it’s miniaturized, tested and so on, it’s a fair bet that companies like Google and Amazon, with their focus on accurate voice recognition, will be sniffing around the tech.

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Nvidia CEO clarifies its GPUs are ‘absolutely’ immune to Meltdown and Spectre

Comments are closed Nvidia CEO clarifies its GPUs are ‘absolutely’ immune to Meltdown and Spectre Comments are closed

Nvidia issued a security bulletin on Tuesday detailing updates it made to its driver software to address the so-called Meltdown CPU vulnerability revealed by Google’s Project Zero. The bulletin was misinterpreted by some outlets as an admission that Nvidia’s GPUs were also affected.

“Our GPUs are immune, they’re not affected by these security issues,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during a general press Q&A this morning. “What we did is we released driver updates to patch the CPU security vulnerability. We are patching the CPU vulnerability the same way that Amazon , the same way that SAP, the same way that Microsoft, etc are patching, because we have software as well.”

Huang explained that anyone running any kind of software has to patch that software for the CPU vulnerabilities discovered by researchers. He stressed that in no way is Nvidia patching for any issues in its own hardware.

“I am absolutely certain that our GPU is not affected,” Huang said, in no uncertain terms.

Nvidia also updated its security bulletin to make clear that its own hardware products are not affected by the disclosed vulnerabilities, to the best of their knowledge right now.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 to be announced in February

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The next version of the Samsung Galaxy S9 is to be announced next month at Mobile World Congress. The word comes from DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile business, speaking at a CES 2018 event.

Samsung has used MWC to launch several Galaxy phones including the Samsung S7 Edge in 2016. The massive annual show in Barcelona is traditionally a stage for Motorola, LG, Xiaomi and Huawei to launch their global flagship handsets.

No other details have been officially released about the upcoming handset, though there’s speculation that Samsung moved up the S9’s launch in response to the iPhone X.

Like every year, TechCrunch will be on the ground at MWC, ready to report about the launch of this device and others. The show starts on February 26 though phone launches generally happen in the days before the official start.

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