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The speech-related developments spotlighted in this column don’t quite warrant a full news story, but they’re still too eccentric for us to pass up.

Journalists (including one for this very publication) who have written about Ford’s Sync system have inevitably invoked images of Knight Rider, about the adventures of David Hasselhoff and his talking car KITT. If you’re truly a purist and a talking car in and of itself isn’t enough, Fremont, Calif.-based Mio Technology, together with Universal Studios and Navitones, a Los Angeles-based provider of celebrity, specialty, and branded voice content for GPS navigation devices, has released the new Knight Rider GPS. The unit comes complete with the familiar red pulsating LEDs that move along the sides in sync with the spoken commands. The GPS device is actually voiced by William Daniels, who originally provided the vocals for KITT.

While the GPS defaults to calling the user Michael (the name of Hasselhoff’s iconic character), other names can be selected from a prerecorded list. Currently, the GPS maps only Canada and the United States, but other maps are available to download from Mio’s Web site.    

The Knight Rider GPS unit retails for $270 and will be available in August.

More pop culture: In the glut of comic book superhero movies being released this year, the one that might be the least-known to audiences is Will Eisner’s The Spirit. Eisner was a contemporary of Stan Lee (famous for co-creating Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, and other Marvel Comics marquee characters), but he never achieved the same mainstream recognition, mostly because his comics were more literary and geared to an older audience. He did, however, create a crimefighter called the Spirit. 

So what does this have to do with speech technology? Yahoo!’s movie site has a Flash page lining up four character posters from the movie, which is due for release at the end of the year. Users can scroll over each one to hear the stars, like Scarlett Johansson or Eva Mendes, say suggestive things (i.e., "On your knees then…").

To be honest, the Web site is entertaining for the four seconds it’ll take to scroll over all four posters. It doesn’t seem, though, that the site’s designers had any idea of how to incorporate speech to maximize the effect.

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