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.
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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