The Driving Need for More Speech

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Nuance Communications recently launched two major automotive speech initiatives, further cementing itself among the industry leaders in this highly lucrative and fast-growing vertical market.

Nuance—together with Ford and Microsoft—first unveiled upgrades to the speech capabilities of Ford SYNC, the in-car communications and entertainment system offered in most Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models. Nuance then launched Nuance Voice Control for Automotive, a mobile platform that allows drivers to operate connected services via voice commands through Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s core speech technology. 

According to a statement from Nuance, the company collaborated with Ford to enhance SYNC’s voice user interface, which will power the MyFord Touch technology launching this year. This latest version of SYNC uses Nuance’s natural language understanding speech technology and is capable of recognizing 10,000 commands. 

Fatima Vital, marketing manager for automotive global at Nuance, says the release represents a long-lasting relationship between Nuance and Ford. She adds that the companies are moving forward on a number of additional projects in Europe.

Ford and Nuance recently “entered into a closer level of cooperation,” Vital says, adding that Nuance supplies Ford with significant application development, system integration, professional services, and expertise. Vital says the upgrades make Ford SYNC easier to use and allow additional features to be speech-enabled.

“The system also supports natural language capabilities,” Vital says. “Most functions can be controlled within one command.… The user can enter the whole address just in one utterance instead of going through multiple menu dialogue steps.”

Among the new features of Ford SYNC are: 

  • one-shot destination entry, which allows users to speak navigation commands in one utterance;
  • voice-activated control of the entire “infotainment” system, which allows users to search for music and select Sirius satellite radio programs and channels; and
  • voice command capability for the Sirius Travel Link information portal, which provides drivers with access to content that includes sports scores, weather, traffic, fuel prices, and movie listings.

Nuance’s other product, Voice Control for Automotive, provides “one-button” access to all on-board and connected services via a single voice user interface that leverages natural language understanding. Additionally, the solution uses Dragon technology to allow drivers to access online services via remote speech applications.

“[This is the] first product that offers the ability to have one single, integrated interface that gives the car driver access to services; applications function both in the car on a device or in the network,” Vital says. “It combines the best existing technologies…all integrated into one product.”

The offering leverages the Nuance VoCon 3200 speech recognition engine and the Nuance Vocalizer text-to-speech solution to power speech interaction with on-board applications. Nuance’s Dragon technology is used to provide connected capabilities. 

With Nuance Voice Control for Automotive, drivers can use their voices to access information and services, including text messaging, email, social networks, news, weather, traffic updates, sports scores, stock prices, movie theater locations, and film listings.

Nuance in early February signed a deal with QNX Software Systems to bring Voice Control for Automotive to the QNX CAR application platform. That application platform is scheduled for release to auto manufacturers and suppliers in April. According to Vital, the first cars with the new technology could begin shipping in the middle of next year.

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