Monday, August 25, 2014

QNX Acoustics for Voice — a new name and a new benchmark in acoustic processing

Tina Jeffrey
Earlier this month, QNX Software Systems officially released QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 — the company’s latest generation of acoustic processing software for automotive hands-free voice communications. The solution sets a new benchmark in hands-free quality and supports the rigorous requirements of smartphone connectivity specifications.

Designed as a complete software solution, the product includes both the QNX Acoustics for Voice signal-processing library and the QWALive tool for tuning and configuration.

The signal-processing library manages the flow of audio during a hands-free voice call. It defines two paths: the send path, which handles audio flowing from the microphones to the far end of the call, and the receive path, which handles audio flowing from the far end to the loudspeakers in the car:

QWALive, used throughout development and pre-production phases, gives developers realtime control over all library parameters to accelerate tuning and diagnosis of audio issues:

A look under the hood
QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 builds on QNX Software Systems’ best-in-class acoustic echo cancellation and noise reduction algorithms, road-proven in tens of millions of cars, and offers breakthrough advancements over existing solutions.

Let me run through some of the innovative features that are already making waves (sorry, couldn’t resist) among automotive developers.

Perhaps the most significant innovation is our high efficiency technology. Why? Well, simply put, it saves up to 30% both in CPU load and in memory requirements for wideband (16 kHz sample rate for HD Voice) and Wideband Plus (24 kHz sample rate). This translates into the ability to do more processing on existing hardware, and with less memory. For instance, automakers can enable new smartphone connectivity capabilities on current hardware, without compromising performance:

Another feature that premieres with this release is intelligent voice optimization technology, designed to accelerate and increase the robustness of send-path tuning. This technology implements an automated frequency response correction model that dynamically adjusts the frequency response of the send path to compensate for variations in the acoustic path and vehicle cabin conditions.

Dynamic noise shaping, which is exclusive to QNX Acoustics for Voice, also debuts in this release. It enhances speech quality in the send path by reducing broadband noise from fans, defrost vents, and HVAC systems — a welcome feature, as broadband noise can be particularly difficult for hands-free systems to contend with.

Flexibility and portability — check and check
Like its predecessor (QNX Aviage Acoustic Processing 2.0), QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 continues to offer maximum flexibility to automakers. The modular software library comes with a comprehensive API, easing integration efforts into infotainment, telematics, and audio amplifier modules. Developers can choose from fixed- and floating-point versions that can be ported to a variety of operating systems and deployed on a wide range of processors or DSPs.

We’re excited about this release as it’s the most sophisticated acoustic voice processing solution available to date, and it allows automakers to build and hone systems for a variety of speech requirements, across all their vehicle platforms.

Check out the QNX Acoustics for Voice product page to learn more.

Monday, August 18, 2014

QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control wins a Silver Stevie

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski

The winners of the 11th annual International Business Awards have been announced and I'm happy to share that QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control (ANC) has won a Silver Stevie Award in the software category, for Best New Product or Service of the Year! The awards program honours the achievements of organizations and working professionals worldwide, and received more than 3,500 nominations this year from dozens of countries. It feels great to be chosen as a winner among so many entries.
If you're unfamiliar with QNX Acoustics for ANC, it's a software solution that can dramatically reduce unwanted engine harmonic noise inside the cabin of a vehicle. The software's algorithms for noise cancellation can run on an existing CPU or DSP in the infotainment system, eliminating the need for dedicated hardware controller modules. The end result is significant savings for automakers and a quieter ride for drivers and passengers.
This is the second award for QNX Acoustics for ANC, after a win in February at the Embedded World conference's embedded AWARDs. If you want to learn more about the solution, read our white paper titled A Software-Based Approach to Active Noise Control in Automobiles. Congratulations QNX!

Friday, August 15, 2014

QNX-powered Audi Virtual Cockpit in 2015 Audi TT named finalist in CTIA Hot for the Holidays Awards

Andrew Poliak
This just in! The QNX-powered Audi Virtual Cockpit in the 2015 Audi TT has been named a finalist in the connected car category in the 2014 CTIA Hot for the Holidays Awards. Just in time for the holiday buying season, the Hot for the Holidays Awards recognize the hottest mobile consumer electronics, including gadgets and accessories from entertainment and health to the connected car and home. The awards were judged by a panel of recognized industry experts, media and analysts.

The sleek 2015 Audi TT features a one-of-a-kind combined infotainment and fully digital instrument cluster — the Audi virtual cockpit —powered by the QNX OS platform. With the virtual cockpit, all content from current speed to the next turnoff, is located on one 12.3” display directly in front of the driver’s eyes elegantly blending infotainment and car gauges, in crisp, fast 3D. You can check out virtual cockpit in action below.

Winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 during CTIA’s Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. The Audi Virtual Cockpit in the 2015 Audi TT is also up for the crowd favorite award where attendees and online users have the opportunity to select their favorite product, so please be sure to vote! Online voting ends Monday, September 8 at 5 p.m. PT.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The summer road trip of 2017 – Part II

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
Our series looking at how in-car technologies will transform your summer road trip continues with part II. 2017 is around the corner, and between now and then, automakers will introduce a bevy of new features that will make for a safer and more enjoyable summer road trip. In our first part, we looked at your road trip soundtrack, navigation, and mobile device connectivity. This week, we look at safety, acoustics, and autonomous cars as we cruise to the last exit for this blog series.

Staying safe
By 2017, we likely won’t have developed the technology to shrink your mechanic down to a size that allows you to perch one on your dashboard like a bobble-head, but many cars will have a “virtual mechanic.” This application will let you check lights, fluids, tire pressure and other system vitals, all through your center stack, digital instrument cluster, or phone – as seen below. The idea of a safety speedometer is hardly new in concept (see the Plymouth safety speedometer from 1939), but its modern implementation in the cars of 2017 in the form of vision systems performing road sign detection might just mean fewer speeding tickets on your road trip, especially as you cruise through unfamiliar areas. 

Staying in touch
Sometimes you want to take a road trip to get away from the world, but sometimes you still want (or need) to stay connected. Whether it’s phone calls, texts, or emails, all of this information will continue to be seamlessly integrated into your car in 2017. Less fumbling, fewer distractions.

And low-quality, stilted speakerphone calls will be a thing of the past with the emerging crop of acoustic technologies. Driving alone on a stretch of road and miss having your loved ones close by? Advanced duplex technology will make it seem as though the person on the other end of your phone conversation is sitting right beside you in the passenger’s seat.  

Another cool development? You won’t have to struggle to use voice recognition technologies because of your noisy in-car cabin (that’s right, serenely quiet cabins will no longer be exclusive to luxury cars). Vehicles will continue to evolve to meet the strictest CAFÉ and emissions standards, while the negative acoustic side-effects from less damping materials will be countered using software to remove unwanted engine sound. And your engine in 2017 might really sound like purring (or growling, if that’s your preference), as signature sounds are enabled by engine sound enhancement software. So not only will you not feel crazy for talking to your car, you’ll also be less frustrated as you do so cruising down the interstate. 

Beyond 2017: Look ma, no hands!
While it won’t happen quite as soon as 2017, autonomous cars will hit the roads in the relatively near future, forever changing the dynamic of the road trip. Will road trips be more accessible for the elderly and others who can’t physically drive long distances? Will the new meaning of "cruise control" make the road trip more or less enjoyable? All of these considerations are up for discussion. One thing is certain: many of the advanced safety systems of today and 2017 are precursors to cars that could drive themselves. One such example of what the future of autonomous driving will look like is the University of Parma’s DEEVA autonomous car project being developed by the Artificial Vision and Intelligent Systems Laboratory (VisLab).  

How is in-car technology playing a role in your current summer road trip? How do you want it to improve your future road trips? Stay tuned to our QNX_Auto Twitter account and Facebook page for weekly discussions throughout the rest of the summer about 2017 has in store for your road trip.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Acoustics, ADAS, and autonomous cars, oh my!

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
Trying to make sense of where automotive technology is headed can be as tricky as finding your way through a poppy field while avoiding flying monkeys. Well strap on your shiny, red, video-watching shoes because Derek Kuhn can help. Derek, VP marketing and sales for QNX, was interviewed at Telematics Detroit and did an excellent job of summing up the latest on automotive acoustics, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and autonomous cars.

QNX announced the new QNX OS for Automotive Safety at Telematics Detroit, so safety was clearly top of mind during the interview. One question posed was whether automakers have the potential to use safety options as revenue generators. There's a quote here I love: "Safety shouldn't be about premium." OEMs need to find cost-effective ways to bring next-generation safety to the mass market, not just luxury vehicles.

The section of the video I find most interesting is when Derek discusses how acoustics in a car play a big role in creating "the emotion and experience of driving." Noise reduction technology and engine sound enhancement both have a significant impact on a driver's affinity for a vehicle, and OEMs are taking note.

Check out the video for yourself here, my pretties:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The summer road trip of 2017 — Part I

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
Summer is the season for many things — ice cream, outdoor festivals, heat waves, more ice cream, and perhaps best of all, hitting the open road. 2017 is around the corner, and between now and then, automakers will introduce a bevy of new features that will make for a safer and more enjoyable summer road trip. In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at how these technologies will help transform your summer road trip.

Tunes for the road
A road trip without a soundtrack is a road trip I want no part of. I think we can all agree that a Britney Spears playlist is compulsory. Music has always been intimately connected to the driving experience (see the Highway Hi-Fi Phonograph below for proof) and it’ll be even more integrated in the cars of 2017 with fewer limits. 

The media sources that you depend on today — local drives, USB storage devices, smartphones, cloud services — will work seamlessly with your vehicle, allowing you and your passengers to enjoy any genre from any source. Conventionally constrained to your center stack, music meta-data will permeate all the screens of your car, even the instrument cluster.

And for the backseat DJs, they’ll be able to use apps on their mobile devices to control the music playing in the car, which just might make the oft-repeated passenger phrase “Can you skip to the next song? I don’t like this one,” obsolete. Of course, to minimize distraction, the driver will always maintain cabin-wide control of what’s playing, and how loud it’s playing. 

The context-aware cockpit
The road trip of years past was plotted on a paper map and required a navigator in the passenger seat; today’s passengers are relieved of these duties as navigation and route plotting have gone digital. But even with that convenience, having to divert your eyes from the road to the center stack can be a nuisance. The dashboard of 2017 will offer greater convenience with a driver centric-display that could blend navigation and digital cluster information all on one screen. These vehicles will be "context aware" and display different information depending on the environment. For instance, surround-view cameras could detect pedestrians or cyclists and provide a minimalist on-screen alert to minimize driver distraction. Similarly, the system may disable certain functionality when the driver is about to navigate a hairpin turn. If the vehicle “knows” there’s a challenge ahead related to road condition, visibility, local speed limits, traffic, or topographical information, it could display the appropriate context-relevant information to the driver. 

Staying mobile
By 2017, you’ll probably have a new smartphone and, regardless of the platform, it’ll be able to communicate with your car. Projection mode technologies will be commonplace and render your phone’s display and services onto your car’s center stack (one example is QNX-powered Audi’s MMI mobile media application framework). This integration will no doubt get even more advanced in the coming years, and with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto connectivity protocols taking form, your favorite apps will be as at home on your dash as they are in your hand. 

Your phone will also be able to control and monitor your car in new ways via the much-discussed, but sometimes nebulous, cloud. For instance, let’s say you find yourself at a behemoth rest stop and can’t remember the location of your car after indulging in the roadside cuisine. Your phone’s “key fob” app could tell you exactly where your car is — it could even let you check your oil and washer fluid remotely to see if your car is in shape to make it on the next of your leg of your trip. 

How is in-car technology playing a role in your current summer road trip? How do you want it to improve your future road trips? What’s your favorite road trip destination? (My personal favorite is Washington, DC
) Stay tuned here for Part II, and to our QNX_Auto Twitter account and Facebook page for weekly discussions on what 2017 has in store for your road trip.