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Cadence HiFi 5 Is a Smart Listener

November 6, 2018

Author: Mike Demler

Cadence designed its new HiFi 5 DSP core to handle speech recognition in digital assistants and other devices that employ voice-based user interfaces (UIs). Announced at the recent Linley Processor Conference, the new design nearly doubles its predecessor’s audio-DSP performance, but it provides an even greater boost to speech-recognition algorithms based on neural networks. According to the company’s simulations running a variety of neural-network kernels, HiFi 5 can quadruple the inference-engine performance of HiFi 4.

By increasing HiFi 5’s audio-DSP and neural-network inference capabilities, Cadence allows device manufacturers to build in-device voice-based applications that reduce the need to send speech to the cloud. Keeping such applications close to the user reduces latency, producing a more natural UI. It also ameliorates privacy concerns and enables operation even when an Internet connection is unavailable.

HiFi 5’s inference engine, which delivers 32 MACs per cycle, is modest compared with object-recognition inference engines, but it’s sufficient for small convolutional neural networks as well as the gated and long/short-term-memory (LSTM) recurrent neural networks (RNNs) that voice applications typically employ. HiFi 4 and HiFi 3z users will be attracted to the new design’s performance boost, along with its software compatibility. On an 8x8 RNN kernel, for example, HiFi 5 increases performance by roughly 4.5x relative to those older models.

The DSP and NN features enable HiFi 5 to handle front-end audio filtering, codecs and equalization, as well as speech-recognition, but it can additionally perform speech synthesis to generate responses in the device. HiFi 5 not only makes smart speakers better listeners, but it also gives them their own voice.

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