The release of a new voice-recognition system could make it safer for European drivers to use some of the in-car equipment offered these days, such as navigation systems, restaurant finders and digital music players.
The system, co-developed by Pioneer Europe and IBM, is an after-market product that can be installed in 60 percent of cars sold in Europe today, said Rene Werth, IBM embedded software specialist. The speech-recognition technology in it can recognize 14 languages.
Such speech systems are typically preinstalled in high-end cars, so this product, called the AVIC-HD1BT, is unique in that customers who don’t buy luxury cars can use the technology. It doesn’t come cheap, however: Pioneer is recommending that dealers sell it for 2,500 euros (US$3,137), Werth said.
Users can speak commands such as, “Find me a hotel in Berlin” or, “call James” or, “play Lordi” to get information and driving directions, make phone calls and play music.
The device has a 30GB hard drive. Two-thirds of that is used up by mapping data, provided by Tele Atlas and including road information covering 22 European countries. It also stores nearly 3.7 million points of interest, including gas stations, stores, restaurants and automated teller machines, or cash points.
The remaining 10GB is reserved for music. Users can play a CD in the device or connect it to an iPod, ripping music from either to the hard drive. Once music is stored on the drive, customers can use voice commands to instruct the device to play songs.
Tele Atlas will provide DVDs to update the mapping and point-of-interest information in the hard drive.
The AVIC-HD1BT also includes Bluetooth so users can connect their phones to it and use voice commands for hands-free calling while they drive.
Speech-recognition technology has improved over the past few years so that such products are more usable, Werth said. IBM has 300 researchers dedicated to speech recognition, and they’ve been improving the algorithms for the speech engine used in the AVIC-HD1BT. The engine works by comparing acoustic models, or descriptions of how words sound, that are stored in the device, with the user’s voice commands. “The better the acoustic model, the better the recognition is,” Werth said.
IBM is interested in the automotive industry because cars contain an increasing number of functions, such as GPS, and customers find it easier and safer to control those functions via voice rather than pressing buttons, he said. IBM and Pioneer sell a similar product in the United States.
-Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)
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