Cadence Brings Dolby Atmos To Automotive Entertainment Systems

By Patrick Moorhead - November 15, 2023
The Rayban Stories Smart Glasses with Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP. JACOB FREYMAN

One of the best parts of going to CES every year is getting to see all the new devices and demos. Most people only know Cadence as a tools company, but it has a lot of differentiated intellectual property, including those from Tensilica.

I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the Cadence private suite this year at CES 2023 and get a first-hand look at its new Tensilica-branded DSP solutions with next-generation technologies for the automotive entertainment industry and the true wireless stereo (TWS) space.

Let's look at what Cadence announced and how it is seeking to transform the automotive entertainment industry and the TWS space with its next-generation HiFi 5 DSPs.

Cadence Tensilica HiFi DSP now supports Dolby Atmos

Cadence announced that its Tensilica HiFi DSP now supports Dolby Atmos for cars—the first DSP to do so, and a huge win for in-car entertainment systems. It is a huge win because In-car entertainment systems can enable immersive experiences without create an unsafe vehicle experience thanks to new automotive technologies. Lately there has been a shift in in-car information and entertainment systems connected to the rise, development and availability of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving (AD) platforms. In the past, vehicle entertainment has been limited to passengers, except for audio-only entertainment like music and podcasts for drivers. This is to ensure vehicle safety, because the driver's focus cannot be compromised by the entertainment system.

However, with ADAS and AD platforms, safety and entertainment are less mutually exclusive. For example, 5G connectivity in a vehicle enables over-the-air updates for safer maps and safety capabilities, yet it also allows for entertainment streaming for video games and videos.

Cadence has made the move to offer HiFi DSPs for Dolby Atmos in automotive settings because Dolby Atmos offers an immersive audio experience for the listener. If we think about the driver’s interaction with both the entertainment system and the environment around the car, immersive audio can make a big difference. The cutting-edge technology in these new systems is able to provide immersive audio of incredible quality, but it is also smart enough to know when to interrupt the audio for safety purposes to help the driver hear what's going on around them. For example, I'm sure we have all heard a song or audio stream in the car that sounded like emergency sirens. Conversely, we might have the audio turned up high enough that actual emergency sirens on the road are inaudible. If this hadn’t been taken into consideration at the design stage, the spatial audio and immersive experience of Dolby Atmos could hinder a driver's sense of the surroundings even more, but that’s not a concern because of the safety features designed into these ADAS and AD platforms.

I am excited to experience Dolby Atmos in-vehicle entertainment systems through Cadence's Tensilica HiFi DSP. This Dolby Atmos support reminds me of how far ADAS and AD platforms have come and the potential that these platforms bring, not just for safety but also from the perspectives of value and immersive entertainment .

Fluent.ai embedded software

Another major win for Cadence is that Fluent.ai, in partnership with Airoha, a MediaTek subsidiary, announced its voice recognition solution for TWS products running on Cadence Tensilica HiFi 5 DSP.

Cadence says that the voice recognition is a part of the integration available on DSP Concepts' Audio Weaver platform. OEMs that use Audio Weaver can create fully customizable audio experiences, triggering more than 30 TWS actions through 101 natural and flexible voice commands.

Cadence's Tensilica HiFi DSP is already available in popular TWS devices such as Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro (which uses Tensilica HiFi 3 DSP), Amazon Echo Buds 2nd Gen (which uses Tensilica HiFi Mini DSP), and Ray-Bans Stories Smart Glasses (which use Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP). Once the new Tensilica HiFi 5 DSP designs are incorporated into TWS devices, we could see future products from Samsung, Amazon and others that incorporate this new speech recognition technology. I see a strong benefit for having speech recognition technology embedded in the edge device, in this case the TWS product, because it is quicker than doing speech recognition on a network-dependent device like a smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Amazon Echo Buds Pro 2nd Gen at CES 2023. JACOB FREYMAN

The Tensilica HiFi 5 DSP's low-power design also enables embedded voice recognition without sacrificing high computational throughput or precious battery life. Cadence says that the Tensilica HiFi 5 DSP blends neural networks with traditional digital signal processing to efficiently execute audio pre-processing, keyword detection and more natural speech recognition. These new advances in the Tensilica HiFi DSP lineup enable more AI features powered by neural networks. I am interested to see how OEMs customize and implement speech recognition within TWS products. As touched on above, I could easily see standalone TWS earbuds come to market featuring Cadence's Tensilica HiFi 5 DSP.

Wrapping up

While CES is known mainly for debuting big concepts and new projects, I believe that it’s designs like Cadence's Tensilica HiFi DSP with AI features and Dolby Atmos support that truly reveal the innovative potential of these projects and concepts. It is particularly compelling to see Dolby Atmos support coming to Tensilica HiFi DSP for in-car entertainment systems. It reveals a lot about the state of ADAS and AD in the automotive industry and how new safety features can go hand in hand with the transformation of vehicles into immersive digital experiences.

Similarly, Fluent.ai's embedded speech recognition software is exciting to see in TWS products. OEMs should be able to implement and customize Fluent.ai's embedded speech recognition and get these products to market quicker thanks to DPS Concepts' Audio Weaver platform. While speech recognition in TWS has been available for some time, it has not been achieved without network dependency. It will be exciting to see how Cadence's Tensilica Hifi DSP continues to enable immersive experiences that scale into TWS and the automotive entertainment space.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.