Drop that remote: Nuance to bring voice control to home appliances

The developer of Dragon voice recognition software wants to create home appliances that respond to voice commands -- even when they're off.

Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
2 min read


Nuance's voice-control technology could soon be coming to a television set near you.

The company behind the Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software has partnered with semiconductor manufacturer Conexant Systems Inc., to bake voice input processors into all manner of home appliances. Their vision: create a network of smart home appliances that can respond to voice commands.

This announcement doesn't come with any word of any actual products or hardware partners, but technology at play here would give appliances like tablets and televisions that ability to "listen" for voice commands even when powered off -- without decimating your power bill.

Qualcomm Toq
The Qualcomm Toq smartwatch offers voice input, care of Nuance's tech.

Voice control is the holy grail of human-device interaction -- at least, that's what some video game console and peripheral manufacturers seem to be implying. I love lying back and yelling at my Xbox as much as the next couch potato, but oft-finicky voice commands can make that problematic. Conexant believes the answer lies in its voice processing technology, reportedly capable of picking up and interpreting voice commands from up to 5 meters (16 feet) away.

Voice command technology has come a long way -- consider the Cortana, Siri, and Google Now showdown, for example. But those are phones: your robot assistant has no problem parsing your commands when pressed up against your face, but good luck dictating that text when your phone is on the other side of your apartment. This Conexant-and-Nuance partnership could change all that, as coupling Conexant's technology with Nuance's experience in the voice recognition field could create smart devices that can actually hear what we're saying, without requiring us to be so close.

This it isn't the first stab that Nuance has made into embedding itself in the hardware space. Back at CES 2014, the company announced a partnership with phone manufacturer ZTE to provide voice biometric technology for ZTE's upcoming Android phones. And recently, Qualcomm partnered with Nuance to bring voice control to its Toq smartwatch . I can only hope that talking to my stuff gets a lot less weird sometime soon.