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'Hey Google' hot word could be coming soon to headphones

A new chip technology could make active hotword listening a thing on low-power devices such as headphones.

Published onJune 11, 2019

A picture of the Sony wh-1000x-m3 headphones.

If you own a pair of Google Assistant-enabled wireless headphones — such as the Sony WH1000XM3 pictured above — you need to hit a button on the headphones to activate Assistant. Meanwhile, your smartphone, smart speaker, and even smartwatch likely have the ability to activate when you say “Hey Google.”

The reason you can’t say “Hey Google” to a pair of headphones is that the battery power needed to keep the microphone on and always listening would be too great and overall battery life of the device would suffer. However, that could change soon thanks to a company called Knowles Corp. (via Reuters).

Today, Knowles released a new chip that will enable battery-powered wireless headphones to actively listen for the hotword related to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant without significantly draining the battery. While Knowles didn’t say anything about Google Assistant, one can assume that if the chip works for Alexa it could just as easily work for Google.

According to Knowles, Anker and LinkPlay are already planning to use the new chip in future Alexa-powered headphones. Bose will release the Noise-Canceling Headphones 700 — the long-awaited follow-up to the massively popular Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones — on June 30, and they will offer voice-activated Alexa support. However, Knowles would not affirm or deny that its chip is used in the NC Headphones 700.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods feature “Hey Siri” support without the use of Knowles’ chip, so it is possible Google or a third-party manufacturer also has something in the works for this functionality for when it comes to Google Assistant headphones.

NEXT: Now that I own $350 headphones, I know why people pay $350 for headphones

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