Want to make your dumb Bluetooth speakers smart? This could be the answer
Alexa, time to get with the Bluetooth program.
Katie CollinsSenior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Bluetooth is usually thought of as a communications technology that links two pieces of hardware together, but it's capable of much more. It can actually connect multiple devices at once; it just needs the right software enhancements.
To demonstrate this development, Tempow has partnered with another French company, which makes a robot called Keecker, effectively a mobile smart speaker with a built-in video projector. With Tempow's software, Keecker can connect to multiple
at once, all while acting as a subwoofer, allowing you to create a makeshift surround-sound system.
But perhaps the most exciting use case for Tempow's tech is the possibility of making dumb speakers smart by linking them up with Wi-Fi connected
Imagine you have already have a multiroom Amazon Echo setup but you also have a bunch of great-sounding Bluetooth speakers you'd still like to use. You could potentially connect as many as six speakers to an Echo when it's in range. And presuming your Bluetooth speakers came with a built-in microphone -- it wouldn't be unusual, many do -- you could then use that mic to talk to
and ask her to play some music through your setup. There you have it: Your previously dumb speaker is now an Alexa-enabled device.
Another intriguing concept is the ability to link multiple speakers, or even several pairs of headphones, to a TV at once. This could be set up so that if one viewer was hard of hearing, audio could be streamed to his or her headphones according to a custom sound profile, while everyone else in the room could listen via Bluetooth-connected speakers.
These individual sound profiles could also be customized for languages.
At IFA I witnessed Pirates of the Caribbean streaming from one television to two different speakers, which were each playing the audio in a different language. In my left ear the dialog was in French; in my right it was in English. This obviously isn't the way I'd choose to watch a film, but it demonstrated to me how, using headphones, speakers of different languages could enjoy a film together in the same room.
Tempow's hope is that more companies building smart speakers will want to license its software, just as Moto did last year. The tech is hardware agnostic, meaning products don't need to be specially adapted to make use of it. It can also be rolled out to existing products via over-the-air updates, so it could potentially be added to your favorite Bluetooth-enabled smart device -- phone, TV or home hub -- at any time.
The big win for the company would be getting smart speaker makers like
on board. They're the biggest fish in the tech ocean, though, so it might not be easy.
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