Microsoft used WinHEC in December to discuss its plans for Cortana. The company wants to engage OEMs and get them to create new solutions for Windows 10. One of the subjects touched upon at the show was how companies can leverage technology like fair-field capabilities and wake on voice. Microsoft has now published the slide deck from WinHEC to expand on its plans.
By using far-field technology, OEMs can build features that allow users to speak to Cortana from up to 4 meters away. While this seems low, it means users can interact with the assistant from the other side of a normal room. One of the interesting thing about this technology is that it works even if music or other noise is in the space.
Specific microphone requirements are needed for far-field to win. For example, the microphone must be in compliance with Microsoft's spec 2.0 and lined in a direction that lets it now the direction from which the voice comes. To achieve this, 4 microphones are needed. There are other options, but these limit the amount of length a user can have to interact with Cortana.
For example, a near-filed microphone can achieve a distance of about 0.5 m to 0.8 m.
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Cortana Wake on Voice (WoV)
Wake on Voice is not a new technology. It was first announced in 2015 and is developed by Intel. The service allows Cortana to always be on and be activated by voice. This of course removes the need to press a button or boot up the virtual assistant.
An integrated audio DSP allows users to wake the assistant with a “Hey Cortana”. Wake on Voice is an accompaniment for far field technology as it means Cortana is usable completely when a user is away from a PC.
Microsoft says it expects this technology to function in standby mode. A good part of this is that it will improve battery life. However, the company says the far field aspect of the technology will only work in UK and US English. Near field tech is more compatible and functions across 14 languages in Cortana.