Microsoft has a vision to make its customer devices so effortless to use that they all but disappear and - since sound quality holds the key - the company built a series of anechoic chambers for testing, which include the quietest place in the world.
As well as machines understanding humans, people also need to understand each other effortlessly if technology is to become an "˜invisible' assistant. Microsoft devices use multiple microphones to home in on voices with location algorithms and then - by separating voices from background noise - they clarify the signal so users do not have to strain their ears or raise their voices to be heard.
Beneath such clever programming however, the quality of any audio interface ultimately comes down to its hardware. As LeSalle Munroe, Senior Engineer, Surface Devices says: "Good voice recognition starts with good acoustic design. Our anechoic chambers and test equipment allow us to reliably characterise our microphones and speakers to give us the best chance of meeting our voice recognition goals.
"We always want to have the best tools available for the job. Our other anechoic chambers are very good, no doubt. However, we wanted to build one with even better audio capabilities, so we could measure lower levels of sound, a higher purity of sound measurements and increase the validity - and reliability - of our measurements, so we can quantify the audio performance of our products at a finer and greater level of detail. The chamber and the Brüel & Kjær microphones and preamps we use allow us to achieve the repeatability we want."
More information about Microsoft's record-holding anechoic chamber and hardware testing is available on Brüel & Kjær's website: www.bksv.com/waves.