It’s time to forget your manners and “Barge-in”

Part two of this blog series explores two concepts: Barge-in and Wake-up-word, helpful technologies for both novice and expert users of in-car technology. Barge-in allows the user to speak at any time during a dialog – no more waiting for your chance to speak. Wake-up-word is a customizable feature of the voice recognition system to start a new dialogue. “Hello Dragon” is one example of this, or you can even customize your Wake-up-word to be most anything you want. So, are you ready to barge in and wake up?

Did you know that you can literally wake up your car with your voice? Just speak and an ‘assistant-like’ experience is at the ready, delivering content, information, or whatever else you may need. This allows for a completely hands- and eyes-free voice session, which is both convenient and safe in an automotive setting. And go ahead – interrupt your assistant at any time – no more waiting for your turn to speak. Wake-up-word and barge-in are at your service.

Most current automotive voice recognition systems require the press of a button (the Push-to-talk button, or PTT) to initiate voice dialog or to interrupt prompt playback. Pressing the PTT button is often followed by a “beep” sound, which indicates the system is listening. Then the user is presented with two options: wait to speak until after the beep sounds, or speak over the beep and system prompts with no hope that the message is understood (…not unlike candidates at a political primary debate…!). This is somewhat unnatural when compared to normal human conversation, though. In practice, this type of system design risks the user speaking too early – by not waiting for or over-anticipating the “beep” – causing the first words of the user’s command to be missed. With wake-up-word and Barge-in, everything changes.

Wake-up-word is a technology that allows initiation of the voice recognition system by speaking a predefined phrase, such as “Hello, Dragon.” Wake-up-word specifically refers to starting a new dialog by voice. With Wake-up-word enabled, the user can start a fresh voice recognition session at any time by simply saying “Hello, Dragon” (or customize it to almost anything you want). The system can be ready for wake-up-word commands even while the user is listening to music or in the middle of navigation route guidance.

Barge-in technology, while similar to Wake-up-word, offers a slightly different user interface enhancement: it allows a user to speak at any time during a dialog. Imagine someone is sending a text message by voice. After finishing dictating, the system might read back a final confirmation – Please confirm: your text will go to John Smith. It says: “Hi John, are you available…”   Rather than waiting until the whole text message is read back, or having to hit a steering-wheel button to confirm by voice, the user can simply speak, “OK send it,” at any time.  Literally – just barge-in and speak. Specialized digital-signal-processing allows the system to listen to your speech while ignoring any sounds of its own that are being played in the car cabin.

Barge-in and Wake-up-word make the in-car experience incredibly intuitive, allowing you to speak and converse with infotainment systems just as you would another person. The back and forth dialog is far more natural, more conversational.

Next, stay tuned for part three of this blog series where I will highlight another emerging automobile audio technology that enhances passenger-to-passenger communication and enables a more natural dialog in the car. Watch this video, In-Car Communication (ICC), for a sneak peek to see how it allows people in the car to speak to each other without turning their heads or straining to increase volume.

Make sure to read part one of this series, Tuning out the noise, to learn more about audio technology in the car.

So, have you utilized barge-in?

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Connor Smith

About Connor Smith

Connor Smith is a senior audio engineer for Nuance’s automotive business. He started at the Nuance Burlington office in 2011 after getting his Masters in Sound Recording Technology from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. In 2012, he moved to Michigan to provide onsite support for Nuance’s automotive customers. Much of his work involves Nuance SSE products, including tuning and testing of hands-free systems. He also supports ASR tuning and validation testing for many customers. Connor lives with his wife Becky and dog Peanut, who all enjoy being outside - hiking, golfing, or playing at the dog park.