Hidden Gems at CEDIA Expo

CEPro

Newcomers show voice-controlled wireless music system, cloud-based home automation, ultimate retrofit device for whole-house video/data/control.

It’s always a challenge to make the most of your time at CEDIA Expo, and this year may be even more crunched with the show floor open only three days.

Of course, you can’t miss mega booths like Crestron, Panasonic, Digital Projection, Sony, AMX and other usual suspects, but it’s easy to walk by smaller booths whose names are unfamiliar.

Every year we round up a handful of these new-exhibitor companies and give you the scoop on why you should stop in and say hello. Here’s a batch for you to add to this year’s appointment schedule (booth numbers in parentheses).

VOCO (2356): Cloud-enabled, voice-controlled, wireless multiroom audio system

We’ve seen voice-enabled home control since … the beginning of home control. Yet none of the services has really succeeded. Newcomer VOCO thinks things will be different this time.

At CEDIA Expo 2011, VOCO will demonstrate a voice-controllable multiroom wireless music system – just speak into an Android phone, and you can have Frank Sinatra crooning in every room of the house.

The VOCO system comprises just a few pieces – a wireless receiver for each zone, an Android app, and VOCO’s voice processor and content aggregation service in the cloud.

V-Zone Alternate Angled View

The wireless V-Zone receiver plugs into any powered speaker/receiver. It communicates via Wi-Fi or hardwired Ethernet to the home network for both control and streaming. Music and zones are selected via the VOCO app on a Wi-Fi-enabled Android phone (or a PC running VOCO software).

The real magic is in the cloud, where VOCO servers do two important things. First and foremost is the voice processing.

“Voice is a primary focus on how we created the interface; it is not secondary,” says Tom Gotuzzo, senior vice president sales and marketing.

“Voice recognition is attractive if it is accurate. By hosting our own voice server, we get far better voice recognition.”

The second important task offloaded to the cloud is content aggregation. When you voice-request a song, the VOCO system first searches all local content, including the device from which you issued the command.

If the user has VOCO server software running on a networked PC, the system also looks for music and playlists there.

“After this local content search is completed in about five seconds,” Gotuzzo says, “the user has the option to search other services.”

VOCO supports free Internet radio, with more services on the way. Gotuzzo explains, “So if the user voice-requests, ‘Black Eyed Peas,’ they also have the option to search over 50,000 Internet stations and find a station either playing Black Eyed Peas right now, or has a high propensity of playing them.” He claims, “We’ve voice-enabled Internet radio as an industry first.”

After screaming at our mobile GPS systems for so many years, are we ready to beckon songs via voice? Gotuzzo says our growing music options give us no choice.

“Consumers now have larger libraries of music stored in multiple places. Using their voice makes it easier for them to retrieve the music they want from multiple music sources.”

A VOCO V-Zone receiver costs $200; the Android app is free, and there is no service fee for the cloud-based services.

Sure, it’s a DIY product, but VOCO sees an opportunity for dealers to bundle the solution with other products (and skill sets) they offer. In any case, the company will introduce at CEDIA some new products that the channel is requesting, says Gotuzzo. — Julie Jacobson

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