Voco Could Give Sonos a Run with Voice-Enabled Audio System

CEPro

Wireless multiroom music system features cloud-based speech-recognition engine for search; may give Sonos some fresh competition.

If voice recognition ever had a use within the home, then music is it. And one of the most promising implementations comes from Navvo, whose Voco system is much more than a solid wireless audio system with voice-enabled search capabilities.

Voco was one of our “Hidden Gems of CEDIA 2011,” and when we finally checked out the system at the Expo, we were not disappointed.

With Voco, a user simply speaks the name of an artist, song, album or other piece of metadata into an Android-enabled device (iOS on the way), and the system pulls up a variety of options from both local and cloud-based sources.

The system succeeds on many levels as a music management system, starting with Voco’s voice recognition system. During the demo at CEDIA, despite background noise, the speaker-independent engine worked perfectly.

Tom Gotuzza demonstrate speech recognition for Voco multiroom wireless audio system from Navvo.

Tom Gotuzza demonstrate speech recognition for Voco multiroom wireless audio system from Navvo.

Senior VP Tom Gotuzza tells CE Pro that the system worked fine even with non-American-English speakers. “It did work with their accents, at least by the second try,” he says, “and then it was good thereafter.”

What makes the speech engine so successful is that the processing occurs in the cloud, enabling Voco to provide a much more powerful engine than could otherwise be packed into a lightweight device such as a phone (the voice application also can be download a computer).

It may be a little slower than locally running voice-recognition apps, especially in an exhibit hall where Internet service is spotty, but it is accurate. In the CEDIA demos, a search took about four seconds to process.

Strong Content Management/Search Capabilities

But voice-enabled content navigation is only as good as the content management system behind it. There, too, Voco delivers.

In the CEDIA demo, Gotuzza said “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and the system found the song stored locally. Pressing the button for the song brought up a menu that gave the options PLAY, ADD TO CURRENT PLAYLIST, ADD TO PLAYLIST, SHOW SONGS, SEARCH TUNEIN RADIO or SEARCH YOUTUBE for an Internet video of the song.

He also demonstrated a search for the artist Kings of Leon, which came back with nothing on the local network, but gave the options of finding the artist currently playing (or having a high propensity to play) on any of 50,000 Internet radio stations in the TuneIn database.

The system can also query YouTube, but currently has no way to output the content to a TV screen (see below). In addition, Voco plans to incorporate Flickr and Picasa, providing access to photos via the TV. The user simply requests “family vacations” or some other tag.

VIDEO: Demo of V-Zone speech-enabled music management system at CEDIA 2011

Content Distribution Over Home Network

Navvo’s first product was the V-Zone receiver ($250), which is a Sonos-like solution for streaming music throughout the home via WiFi or hardwired Ethernet. Music and zones are selected via the Voco app on a Wi-Fi-enabled Android phone (or a PC running Voco software).

The device has no internal amplifier, so powered speakers or a stereo system are required.

It does feature an HDMI port, which is not currently enabled, but in the future will allow users to summons videos and play them on a connected TV.

Navvo also previewed for the first time at CEDIA the Voco V-Zone Pro for the custom electronics channel.

Navvo CEO Wade Fenn says the unit features a “professional-quality DAC” (digital audio converter), as well as an IR blaster for controlling A/V devices from the unit.

The V-Zone Pro also offers an internal WAP, internal/external support for e-sata drives, and line-in via an RCA jack.

It will retail for $500 to $600.

Finally, Navvo showcased the self-contained V-Spot powered speaker, which blends elements of both the standard V-Zone receiver and the V-Zone Pro. The unit features hard buttons that let users easily select specific playlists, music stations and other sources from the speaker itself – a convenience not offered with Sonos’s powered speakers.

VOCO V-Zone Receiver

DIY-oriented wireless music V-Zone music system.

VOCO V-Zone Pro

Custom-oriented Voco V-Zone Pro with high-quality DAC, previewed at CEDIA 2011.

VOCO V-Spot

V-Spot powered speaker that incorporates features of V-Zone and V-Zone Pro.

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