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UNH research will change how you interact with machines

Union Leader Correspondent

November 06. 2017 12:46AM
Research performed at UNH in Durham led to patents which will help human machine interfaces better and more accessible (File photo by Kimberley Haas)

Kevin Short, professor of mathematics at UNH, is performing the research into sound separation that will change the way we live. (COURTESY)

DURHAM — Research performed at the University of New Hampshire in Durham may allow you to someday turn on appliances with a simple voice command.

Mathematics Professor Kevin Short’s research over the years has provided the foundation for algorithms that enable devices to focus on a specific voice or conversation within a crowded audio environment. Short said Friday sound separation technology has a variety of practical uses.

“An example is eventually you might be able to talk to your dishwasher. Say you’re leaving for work and have your hands full, you can give it an instruction to turn on,” Short said.

Another area where sound separation technology will likely be applied in the future is in hearing aids. People with hearing loss will be able to select which voices in a crowded restaurant they want to focus on, eliminating the background chatter and clanking of dishes.

“We’re not quite there yet, but that’s the direction we are going,” Short said.

Short’s work is used by the UNH startup Setem Technologies, which was acquired earlier this year by XMOS, a worldwide supplier of advanced embedded voice and audio solutions. The company has headquarters in the United Kingdom but established new offices in Hampton, where staff members will concentrate on developing products that use Setem’s patented technology.

Mark Lippett, president and CEO at XMOS, said the acquisition brings many benefits, including acoustic engineering expertise, which is essential to the company’s goal of making next generation human machine interfaces better and more accessible.

XMOS recently announced the release of the first far-field linear microphone array solution for Amazon Alexa Voice Service. The VocalFushion 4-Mic Kit for Amazon AVS enables developers to integrate Alexa into smart panels, kitchen appliances and other electronics that benefit from “across the room” performance in a linear form, according to a news release issued by UNH.

In September, XMOS announced it had raised $15 million in a Series-E funding round led by a strategic investment by Infineon Technologies, the release said.

UNH Associate Vice Provost of Innovation and New Ventures Marc Sedam said this is one example of how the flagship research university works on the technologies of the future.

“It’s one thing to publish a paper. In this instance, this technology will participate in the Internet of Things,” Sedam said. “In the end, it’s great for the world because the world gets to use this technology.”

Sedam said professors at UNH are thinking about the needs of society when working on research, which ensures their projects are relevant.

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