Tuesday, August 23, 2016

QNX's Fabulous Concept Cars

Thomas Bloor
Business Development Manager

If you’ve been to CES chances are you’ve seen one of our concept cars, even if you’ve not been to our booth, we take these to our industry partners. Now as we start gearing up for next year’s CES there are some great innovations in the pipeline. (I’ve seen them, but I’m not telling.) So as I can’t spill the beans on what's coming, but let’s take a look at some of my favorite QNX Concept Cars from years past.

The Porsche 911 Carrera (CES 2012)
Admittedly I have a soft spot for performance cars, but the Porsche deserves headline billing in the roster as a CNet "Best of CES" winner. With revolutionary (for 2012), cloud-based voice recognition you could control the navigation system using natural language.   And, text-to-speech meant that you could listen to incoming BBMs, emails and text messages. Rounding out the roster of features that would still be considered ahead of the curve for a production car today, this model featured one-touch Bluetooth pairing.  Simply touching your phone to an NFC reader in the center console automatically paired the phone and car. 

The Bentley Continental GT (CES 2013)
In an outburst of Canadian quirkiness, we decided that when better to do a photoshoot of a Bentley Convertible than in the middle of the Canadian winter? Of course despite the -20C (-4F) weather we’d have to have the top down!

The cold and the snow do not detract from the revolutionary center stack with DLP® display from Texas Instruments. This immense (for 2013) featured an organically curved surface and TI’s optical touch input technology, which allowed physical control knobs to be mounted directly on the screen resulting in an ideal balance in physical and touchscreen controls

Taking natural language voice recognition a step further we worked with AT&T’s WatsonSM . Say "Hello Bentley," and the car's voice recognition system immediately starts interacting with you, in a distinctly British accent, old chap.

If that weren’t enough, the cluster displays the back-up camera and user configurable high resolution instrumentation. We also took the mobile office to new heights with smartphone integration with streaming music, email notification, news feeds, and other real-time information. Put the Bentley into park and you could fire up video conferencing with realistic telepresence.  

Separate cameras for the driver and passenger provide independent video streams, while high-definition voice technology from QNX offers expanded bandwidth for greater realism, while stereo telepresence makes the remote caller sound as if they’re sitting right next to you.

Mercedes CLA 45 AMG (CES 2014)
Have you looked inside a Mercedes S class recently? The horizontally orientated center stack display extends across the dash. Coincidentally our 2014 Mercedes concept had a 21-inch-wide center display extending towards the passenger enabling a seamless interaction with the vehicle.
Behind the scenes the Cluster was integrated with the center stack running both driver information and IVI functions. With seamless controllability across the touch screen, physical buttons and the jog wheel controls multi-modal input was highlighted across all available functionality. 

Not content with that, we foreshadowed greater integration of ADAS functionality warnings to the driver through both the cluster and verbally through text to speech if the local speed limits were exceeded.

Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Highlander
Now it’s not all high end luxury cars, which is just as well because they never let me drive any of them. Our Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Highlanders serve as our QNX reference vehicles showcasing what the QNX CAR application platform can do, straight out of the box. Additionally, the Toyota features our advances in in-car communication and acoustics platforms enabling an enhanced user experience for drivers and passengers.

These cars are not just  "show floor wonders" because our automotive knowledge enables us to build demonstrators for the real world, which can be driven, and the technology can be experienced first-hand. Concept clusters and displays abound, but real vehicle bus integration means these cars are drivable with real instrumentation and connectivity.

While I can’t reveal what new exciting technologies we are planning for CES 2017 (believe me, you’ll want to come and take a look), I can say that our reference vehicles are currently on tour so keep an eye open for them on the roads near you.

Monday, August 8, 2016

In Car Communications (“ICC”) Solution Check List

Len LaytonLen Layton
Global Business Development Manager, Acoustics at BlackBerry

If you’ve ever had to “twist and shout” to be heard by back seat passengers then listen up – you might find some new technology from QNX useful (and safer!) 
So many cars already have the basic hardware that we could leverage to effectively make a phone call to the people in the back of the vehicle.  The handsfree microphone can  pick up the driver’s voice, amplify (reinforce) it and play it out of the rear loudspeakers near to the people in the back. This is the principle of in-car communications -- “ICC” for short.

Designing a practical in-car communications (“ICC”) system can be broken down into a few basic steps. But first let’s look at how a car’s hardware is setup and the paths where audio will be flowing.  The main problem is the “front-to-back” case where the driver’s voice needs to be reinforced for the benefit of the passengers in the back, to that the driver doesn’t have to twist around and shout at the people in the back. 

You can see that we have essentially built a public address system for the car.

In noisy conditions we could turn on the ICC system and then the voice of the driver should be heard much more clearly.  Sound would be flowing through the “reinforced path” in the diagram. At intermediate noise levels, the listener in the back will be able to hear both the direct path and the reinforced bath at the same time.

If there is too much time delay between these two paths, then the listener will perceive the reinforced signal as though it was someone else talking and will not sound natural at all. Studies have suggested that any more than about 30 milliseconds is the limit of this time delay between the direct and reinforced paths.

There will also be some of the reinforced signal that comes back to the talker in the form of echo, which can be disturbing or annoying for the talker if there is too much delay on this path too. And let’s not forget the key issue we are dealing with – NOISE! Noise is all around the occupants and the faster you go the more noise there is.  So, what should we care about when designing and ICC system?

The Solution Checklist:
QNX ICC is the first practical seat-to-seat speech enhancement software product. It addresses the whole set of challenges faced when implementing a practical ICC system:
1) Improved intelligibility by reinforcing speech naturally without distortion or added noise. QNX ICC addresses the primary goal of an ICC system – replacing the “What?” with “Oh Yeah!”

2) fully Automatic -  the amount of reinforcement is continuously adapted to the actual noise level in the car. So as different noise conditions are experienced, the reinforcement is immediately and smoothly adjusted and the driver does not need to operate any controls at all. QNX ICC is truly “set and forget” and can be safely left enabled so that it is ready to kick-in as needed. 
3) No feedback howling  Under any circumstances QNX ICC will never howl.

4) No Echo or unpleasant perceptible effects – QNX ICC operates at low delay so the talker will only perceive that their voice is slightly louder and not delayed or sounding “processed.” 

5) low delay operation so that reinforced speech does not perceptibly interfere with direct, non-reinforced speech. QNX ICC’s algorithmic latency is only 5 milliseconds. 

6) Reinforces speech only and does not amplify background noise. Leveraging more than a decade of experience and over a hundred patents in the area of automotive signal processing, QNX ICC includes advanced noise reduction algorithms to ensure clear and natural speech reinforcement. 

7) Simultaneous operation with music and not cause any perceptible distortion to music or other media playback.

8) Implementable on current ICs such as infotainment processor CPUs and DSPs and co-exist with other system software.

9) Tuning that is easy and quickly adapted for different vehicle types and acoustic configurations before production.

QNX ICC is available for licensing today either as a standalone signal processing library or as part of QNX’s new Acoustics Management Platform ("AMP"). QNX In-Car Communications is one of the great features of the breakthrough QNX Acoustics Management Platform click here to find out more. 

A future blog post will address how QNX ICC can be integrated with a complete automotive acoustics solution.