Motorola’s New Walkie-Talkie Includes Built-In Voice Assistant for First Responders
Motorola Solutions has launched a high-tech walkie-talkie with a built-in voice assistant called APX Next. The ViQi voice assistant is designed to help first responders operate the device and keep in contact with each other without needing to use their hands.
The APX Next is a combination of a mobile phone and land mobile radio, the official term for a walkie-talkie. The device includes a touchscreen and the standard buttons common to walkie-talkies, but it’s the voice assistant that makes it unique. ViQi, pronounced Vicky, is not a broad-use tool like most consumer voice assistants. Instead, it was built as an alternative way to control the radio and perform the same functions as the buttons and touchscreen. ViQi was built to address the need for first responders and law enforcement officers to quickly access information and remain in communication with their team.
“APX NEXT was created after more than 2,000 hours of extensive field research and testing with numerous law enforcement agencies,” Motorola Solutions senior vice president of products Scott Mottonen said in a statement. “We know that first responders need technology to be intuitive and intelligent to allow them to remain eyes up, hands free and focused in any situation.”
ViQi The Virtual Partner
Motorola Solutions is a different company from Motorola Mobility, which spun off in 2011 and does the consumer phone business that most people associate with the name. Motorola Mobility developed a voice assistant called Moto Voice in-house in 2011 before turning to SoundHound’s Houndify platform to power it last year. Motorola Solutions hasn’t said what third-party developer is behind ViQi, however, and the specialized nature of the software doesn’t point to one particular platform.
According to Motorola, Viqi’s voice recognition works in some of the more extreme environments a first responder may be operating in. The walkie-talkie includes four microphones and can cancel out extraneous noise in order to understand what the user is saying even when it’s very loud. The “virtual partner” is accessed by a button to avoid accidental awakenings. Motorola trained the voice assistant to understand nearly 100 common requests made by police and emergency services, including regional variations on many of the common code requests used by first responders.
One example given by Motorola is how ViQi can check up on a driver’s license or license plate information by searching through the same databases a dispatcher would. Motorola’s involvement in building many of those digital networks eases that process. After obtaining the answer, ViQi makes a beeping noise and the user can press the button to get the answer whenever it is convenient. Motorola said in its announcement that future updates of ViQi will include language translation, statement transcription, and the ability to call for assistance. The cost of the device and its subscription services are unrevealed and likely will only be shared with the agencies that may purchase the APX Next.