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audioXpress Magazine

February 2024


From Smart To Intelligent
CES 2024 will focus on rethinking the core technologies.
Editorial By J. Martins


audioXpress February 2024


  Developments in audio front-ends and MEMS microphones give us a broad perspective of an intense area of activity for the audio industry. After the world converted work-from home spaces into recording and live streaming studios, microphones for musicians, podcasters, and creatives continue to be in strong demand. And as the world got back on the move, many other interesting trends have started taking place. There's now an interesting convergence with in-ear devices and the ability to capture the world around us — also because of the need to work from anywhere — demanding a combination of new technology and designs. Consumer hearables continue to be the market's fastest and largest growing category, and microphones are at the core of these devices. And increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and trained models are being explored by developers as an efficient way to optimize the capture and recognition of voice (and other signals) in ways that were not previously possible.

MEMS microphones are getting better and are being integrated with audio processors to gain additional features optimized for these more varied applications. Integrated active systems with sensors, including voice pick-up bone conduction sensors are a new frontier for mobile applications. And even more traditional condenser and electret microphones are benefiting from being integrated with these sophisticated audio processing systems, creating a new generation of products that are increasingly combining smart processing and edge AI.



This issue of audioXpress details those trends in the microphone perspective, followed by an overview of how AI and DSP are combined to enable advanced cases in Adaptive Audio, Noise Cancellation, and natural enhanced Voice Capture — in this case mainly centered around the latest cases for Smart Hearables.

In the two complementary Market Update features, we trace a set of important technology trends that are disrupting the market thanks to the integration of AI-based and AI-driven algorithms. It was tempting to expand this overview even more just to discuss the concept of Adaptive Audio in greater detail, and we could have explored more the world of AI applied to sound emulation that is also disrupting the world of studio microphones. But we had to leave those topics for another issue.



I'll just add here the many examples of integrated sound capturing wireless systems that are now revolutionizing content creation — a trend that was defined originally by Australian brand Røde with its Wireless GO microphones, launched in 2019. Now, a dozen companies are exploring that design, creating systems that add more professional choices, or more options with sophisticated AI processing, cloud recording, and so forth. A pace of innovation so intense that it's becoming increasingly difficult for the traditional microphone brands to catch up.

Interestingly, the leading professional microphone companies are not even trying to follow up. But when I say these trends are disruptive I don't say it lightly. Many of these technologies are going to easily crossover to all application segments.

And notice that, independently of the applications and product designs, voice capture remains at the core of all these trends. Because companies are finally building the foundational technologies that are needed for voice recognition, interfaces, and control to work effectively. Starting naturally with building the smart microphones.



We have wrapped this issue of audioXpress just before CES 2024, where we know we will be confronted with even more new companies, a lot of software and algorithm creators, and more amazing processing devices.

What I like the most about the perspectives for CES 2024 is knowing that every bit of technology can be questioned and improved. CES is no longer a consumer electronics show and is increasingly a B2B marketplace for all advanced mainstream technologies, including automotive (transportation and mobility), health, and (naturally) AI — for now, still its own tech category.

And even though the buzz around AI almost obscures previous trends in voice recognition and smart speakers, CES 2024 will focus on rethinking the core technologies that will eventually allow voice interface and voice assistant applications to finally fulfill its promises with a bit of help from what we probably should dub as "Adaptive Intelligence."



J. Martins




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