Future homes and offices will feature increasingly dense ecosystems of IoT devices, such as smart lighting, speakers, and domestic appliances. Voice input is a natural candidate for interacting with out-of-reach and often small devices that lack full-sized physical interfaces. However, at present, voice agents generally require wake-words and device names in order to specify the target of a spoken command (e.g., “Hey Alexa, kitchen lights to full brightness”).
In this research, we explore whether speech alone can be used as a directional communication channel, in much the same way visual gaze specifies a focus. Instead of a device’s microphones simply receiving and processing spoken commands, we suggest they also infer the Direction of Voice (DoV). Our approach innately enables voice commands with addressability (i.e., devices know if a command was directed at them) in a natural and rapid manner. We quantify the accuracy of our implementation across users, rooms, spoken phrases, and other key factors that affect performance and usability. Taken together, we believe our DoV approach demonstrates feasibility and the promise of making distributed voice interactions much more intuitive and fluid.