• August 7, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Market Spotlight: Speech Finds Its Place in In-Car Systems

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With automakers under increasing pressure to innovate, many have turned to speech technologies to give them a competitive edge.

New user interfaces, including those that rely on voice, can be a "key differentiator" for car models and build brand value for car manufacturers, says Christian Reinhard, head of human-machine interfaces at Elektrobit's EB Automotive unit. In June, Elektrobit released an updated version of its EB Guide, a software tool kit that enables automakers and developers to design and develop multimodal in-car screens with advanced graphics and voice-, touchscreen-, and gesture-based controls.

With the trend toward integrating smartphones and other consumer devices with vehicles, the need to create a smooth and non-distractive interface is growing as well. "How you interact with your car will continue to evolve," Reinhard adds. The evolution will undoubtedly be "enabled by increasingly sophisticated [interfaces]," he says.

Feeding off that ambition, Hyundai earlier this summer launched a fully voice-enabled Blue Link app for Apple Watch, enabling features such as remote start and service information to be accessed through Apple's smart watch. The wearer simply taps an icon or uses voice commands to execute remote functions, such as starting the engine, locking and unlocking doors, flashing the lights, honking the horn, and more. Pushing the microphone icon on the watch activates the voice function.

Not to be outdone, Chrysler announced plans to equip many of its 2016 vehicles with an upgraded Uconnect system that offers drivers a range of communication, navigation, and entertainment features and other connected services that they can access with simple voice commands.

For 2016, Uconnect is introducing Siri Eyes Free (Apple's automotive interface for connecting the iPhone features with in car-systems) and Do Not Disturb. Via the voice button on the steering wheel, Siri Eyes Free enables drivers to use natural language voice commands to send text messages, play music, set reminders, place phone calls, and access turn-by-turn directions. The Do Not Disturb feature routes all incoming mobile calls to voicemail and suppresses text messages, and can send default or customized responses once calls or text messages are received.

GMC also upgraded its in-car systems with greater consumer device integrations. The Apple CarPlay capability, available in the 2016 Canyon, Yukon, and Sierra, takes features from the iPhone and puts them on the vehicle's display through GMC's branded IntelliLink system. Android Auto capability will also be offered on some models in 2016.

With these applications, drivers can use select smartphone apps, make calls, send and receive messages, and listen to music through the IntelliLink touchscreen interface. Many features can be controlled via voice commands through a button on the steering wheel.

IntelliLink is another step forward in GMC's efforts to provide "functionality that makes phones and vehicles work better together," stated Duncan Aldred, vice president of sales and marketing at GMC, in a statement. "It's technology designed to enhance the driving experience without intruding on it," he said.

At Elektrobit, EB GUIDE 6 is expected to open the door to any developer to design consistent, multimodal interfaces via a single development tool. But the overall market potential is far greater.

EB GUIDE 6 was originally developed for the automotive market, but it also has applications in other markets, including industrial automation, medical solutions, and avionics.

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