January 23, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Talk to the car with new tech

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"When you push a button, the radio mutes automatically," said Chet Huber, president of OnStar. "We use voice recognition so your hands are on the wheel. You can say 'call home,' and it will call home.'"

Other big players in advanced search recognition, or voice recognition, include IBM, Microsoft and ScanSoft. Microsoft, for example, sells voice-recognition technology with its operating system for automobiles, but the system responds to commands rather than to contextual speech.

VoiceBox executives think the large companies are potential partners. Toyota, for example, plans to use VoiceBox technology on top of IBM software.

Microsoft's voice technology will be available in European cars made by Fiat next month. Fiat, which makes the Alfa Romeo, will offer voice command features for mobile phones and digital music players that can be hooked up to nearly 23 models of its cars, through Windows Mobile Automotive technology.

"Consumers fundamentally want voice to work--it's in our imagination with shows like the 'Jetson's' and 'Star Trek.'"
--Bob Kennewick, founder, VoiceBox

Honda's Acura runs Microsoft's auto operating system, but

For XM Satellite Radio, VoiceBox is likely to be a welcome feature, because it can give people easy access to relatively unknown features, like regular traffic updates, sports scores or stock quotes. People can say: "What's traffic like on 101?" and VoiceBox will tick off an answer. XM Satellite plans to introduce the product midyear.

Gartner's Koslowski said that Apple is also likely working with the auto industry on voice technology, as well as developing it in-house. He also suggested that all the Internet search companies such as Google will likely look at markets like the auto business, in which people need to search for files but don't have use of their hands.

"Consumers fundamentally want voice to work--it's in our imagination with shows like the 'Jetson's' and 'Star Trek,'" Kennewick said. "We think this will be a more compelling experience for people."

CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.

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7 comments

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Automotive Voice Control
My 2004 Infiniti M45 has voice control for climate control, entertainment and navigation systems. It works most of the time. I understand its limitations and work within them. It's not even as smart as a dog.

Unlike humans, it has trouble with other people in the car talking while I'm issuing a command. No child would have a problem hearing Mom say, "Now stop hitting your sister!", while Dad is talking to the oldest boy in the back seat about the score of his last basketball game. We have excellent signal processing that operates at a very high level of context and the meanings of words in that context. We can easily focus our listening to just one person among several others while they all are talking. Currently, machines have no hope of coming close.

So, yesterday while driving with my wife and looking for a particular street, I waited a few seconds for her to not be talking, pressed the talk button on the steering wheel and issued, "Navigation, where am I?". My car repeated in that perfect female American voice, "Navigation, where am I?" and showed me. If my wife had said even one quiet word, I would have been beeped at.

Good luck to these new innovators. They have a very long way to go.
Posted by Crunchy Doodle (41 comments )
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The problem is not one of controlling the gadgets...
...It is of controlling one's own thoughts.

The problem with all of the car gadgets is the same as the problem with using a cell phone while driving.

It doesn't matter if you are using a handheld cell phone or a speakerphone, searching through the radio stations by hand or by voice. The problem is that your attention is not on driving, where it should be.

If anything, fewer car gadgets would make the drivers and roads safer.
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
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controlling gadgets
We just blew a wad and took delivery on a Prius. It is an electronic juke box. I'm sure it will take a few long days finding all the twists and turns in the whole interface. OTOH the display is most impressive. Not your ordinary dashboard. Important stuff is way up under the windshield and looks to be imune to washout by external sunlight or other illumination. Another thing is that it will display either metric or English measure for speed and distance. Neat touch when we go North.

It is awsome to sit in traffic with zero gas consumption. Engine startup is next to un-noticable. But the power is there. I asked around before purchase about source of the low voltage during shutoff. It turns out there is a regular 12V lead acid battery that keeps that part awake. So the light and fan loads have to be rechaged when the gas engine starts.

Once the sequences are put in the mind it will be as automatic as the present day vehicles.

Time and our memo book will show how close one can come to the fuel use numbers that the tests pronounce.

Since we already have three GPS hand helds we passed by the huge cost of built in navigator. Same for most of the other high cost stuff. Made the usual (for us) single payment for a clear title. In our state that saves recording fee and releases. Every buck counts. Now we start saving for next vehicle replacement in about 8-9 years. And earning interest until then.
Posted by bigduke (78 comments )
Link Flag
Reminds me of BMW Australia Story
I subscribe to different news feeds, and I remember technology like this entering the BMW market in Austraila. In June (2005)BMW tested it and called their integrated car technology "ConnectedDrive."
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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wife talks all the time
I think she would overload this system
Posted by ErvServer (25 comments )
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I'm looking for the new <a href="http://autoya.info/new_infiniti_g37_sales_2010_january/" title="Infiniti G37">New Infiniti G37</a>. Does anybody know where to buy it?
Posted by comlover (1 comment )
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