How DSP Concepts helped design Spotify’s Car Thing, leveraging DSP’s experience with GoPro to filter wind noise, isolating voice commands from music, more (Janko Roettgers/Protocol)

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How Spotify’s Car Thing became a thing

how dsp spotify dsp goproroettgersprotocol, Welcome to Protocol Next Up, good morning. This week’s topics include what’s next for Google’s Android TV and smart home platforms, as well as how a California business assisted Spotify in creating Car Thing.

The Big Story

The technology behind Spotify’s Car Thing

Making hardware is challenging, particularly for businesses without prior experience in the consumer electronics industry. Therefore, Spotify sought outside assistance while creating Car Thing, its new automobile display gadget.

Spotify used DSP Concepts, a Santa Clara-based business that has created a software framework for audio hardware development, to make speech recognition for Car Thing function. Paul Beckmann, CTO of DSP Concepts, recently informed me of the role his team played in making Car Thing a reality.

  • According to Beckmann, DSP Concepts worked on Car Thing for around 12 to 15 months. He said to me, “We prefer to get engaged early.”
  • The company was chosen to assist in the development of the Car Thing’s voice recognition, which includes what Spotify refers to as “adaptive interference cancellation” — algorithms that make sure the device only hears voice commands and not background noise, backseat conversations, engine noise, or motorway noise.
  • Working on audio for automakers like Tesla, Mercedes, and BMW has given DSP Concepts an excellent understanding of how to handle these ambient noises.
  • The four microphones that Car Thing uses for hands-free voice control were placed with the help of Beckmann and his crew, who were also able to provide suggestions.

Car Thing, however, differs significantly from the traditional in-car entertainment system in several ways. The gadget serves as a user interface for the Spotify mobile app.

  • While using Vehicle Thing, it is simpler to choose music, playlists, and podcasts while maintaining one’s eyes on the road. However, connectivity and audio transmission to the car system through Bluetooth or line-in are still handled by the phone.
  • It is more tougher with such configuration to isolate voice instructions and block out background noise. The music signal is not accessible to it, according to Beckmann.

The placement of microphones and the acoustic properties of each component in the cabin are likewise entirely at the discretion of the automaker. Automobile Thing, on the other hand, is very much a do-it-yourself solution; customers choose where to instal it, and the gadget must function with any car they own, regardless of how old or damaged it is.

  • In essence, Car Thing must function more like a smart speaker that users may instal in a variety of settings. To improve the signal processing, DSP Concepts conducted extensive testing and recording in actual vehicles.
  • Smart speakers, on the other hand, need to be optimised for voice commands that are spoken from across the room. The individual asking for the next song is seldom more than a few feet away in a car. Even American automobiles aren’t that large, according to Beckmann.

The main problem: the notoriously packed automobile dashboard. Voice isolation is made more difficult by the fact that Spotify delivers Car Thing with a vent mount, which many customers discover to be the only way to instal a second screen to their vehicle. Beckmann told me, “The vent noise was astonishing.”

To cope with blaring ACs, DSP Concepts could, however, draw upon some prior experience. The business has been assisting GoPro in enhancing the action cameras with wind noise reduction. It turns out that improving audio for a dashboard benefits greatly from making it work on a surfboard.

Beckmann joked: “After working with GoPro, we have 20 phrases for wind noise,” alluding to the fable that Inuits had several words for snow.


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