AI could tell smart speakers what direction your voice is coming from

AI might soon be an ally in the quest to banish wake words from voice assistants. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a machine learning model that estimates the direction a voice is coming from, indicating your intent without the need for a special phrase or gesture. The approach relies on the inherent properties of sound as it bounces around a room.

The system recognizes that the first, loudest and clearest sound is always the one aimed directly at a given subject. Anything else tends to be quieter, delayed and muffled. The model is also aware that human speech frequencies vary depending on the direction you’re facing. Lower frequencies tend to be more omnidirectional.