BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – Beyond the radio, sound can be emitted from a variety of sources in modern vehicles, including navigation and advanced-driver-assist safety systems.
It also can come from drivers and passengers using voice assistants or placing calls on their phones.
Recognizing that competing sound could become a pain point for vehicle occupants, Bose is pitching its ClearVoice technology to automakers with hopes of getting it in market “sooner than later,” says Heidi AJ Grissom, regional marketing manager for Bose in North America.
Bose wants to “enhance other experiences, other things that you’re interacting with in a vehicle to really enhance the overall in-cabin experience,” she tells WardsAuto at a ClearVoice demonstration at Bose’s Detroit-area headquarters here.
ClearVoice is demonstrated in a listening lounge and in a vehicle, Nissan’s Micra small car from Europe. The vehicle already comes fitted with Bose’s personal system, which features two ultra-nearfield speakers in the driver’s seat head restraint.
Added for demonstration purposes are four microphones mounted in an array above the center stack on the Micra’s ceiling, plus the ClearVoice technology, whose “special sauce” is an algorithm that removes background noise via signal processing software, says Bruce Sanborn, marketing program manager for Bose in North America.
“We’re able to filter out everything else and just focus on your human voice,” Sanborn says, running through a demo in the vehicle where, via a paired iPhone, he asks Siri to play NPR’s “Car Talk,” then asks Siri to take and send a text message, as well as make a phone call.
While requesting both tasks via Siri, the audio system keeps the volume of “Car Talk” at a constant, high level, unlike in today’s vehicles where radio volume is turned down when requests are performed. Also, periodic navigation prompts to turn left or right are heard during the demo as Sanborn set a drive route.
The audio from Siri or a person on the other end of a call is emitted from the head-restraint speakers.
“Today everything shuts off so everyone has to suffer through the work call,” Sanborn says as an example of why the radio’s volume level doesn’t dip. “If you have occupants in here they can still listen to Taylor Swift or “Car Talk” or whatever, and you’re able to hear the call from (the head-restraint speakers) so it doesn’t disrupt the whole vehicle’s experience.”
In the listening-lounge demo, Sanborn calls the room from the car and we are able to turn ClearVoice on and off via an iPad app to hear the difference. The most notable difference with ClearVoice on is the filtering out of a Taylor Swift song during his call.
Besides music, Bose promises the technology can filter out navigation and safety prompts from an outgoing voice signal, as well as separate the driver’s voice from HVAC system noise and road noise to improve its clarity for the person the driver is talking to on the phone.
Bose also touts ClearVoice’s ability to make in-car voice-recognition systems more reliable and less frustrating as commands from drivers or passengers don’t have to be repeated. That feature is not demoed here, however.
It is envisioned as a feature that can’t be turned off, similar to Bose’s in-market, cabin-quieting Active Noise Cancellation technology that is constantly on.
However, as some drivers may find a blaring audio system a deterrent to giving voice commands or taking a phone call, Grissom says the audio-system supplier would work with OEMs to determine what volume level would be appropriate.
“With ClearVoice, the way it’s designed, it’s just an algorithm we run,” she says. “That demo is the most extreme case,” adding most people would manually turn the volume down when dictating a text message.
“As we go through our journey of what does the algorithm need to do, a result could be (that) the volume does get lowered.
“Ultimately the consumer is king and what do we want to give them in the (in-vehicle audio) experience?” she continues. “So there’s a lot of variables as we go through the research process to narrow in on what that end product actually will be.”
As stated, Bose is presenting the technology to automakers with a goal of getting ClearVoice in market soon. It was at CES in Las Vegas in January doing demos.
Bose has been in the automotive sector since 1983, when its first factory-installed audio system was featured in the Cadillac Seville. Today its products are in vehicles from more than 20 automotive brands. General Motors remains a major customer for the company, as is Nissan.