GPS System with TTS Capabilities Enters Chinese Market
Following strong Chinese economic growth, GPS provider Magellan announced yesterday that it would market three of its leading products there. The systems offered are all part of the Magellan Maestro Series, and include the Magellan Maestro 3200C, 8200C, and 8250C. Each system comes equipped with voice prompts, while the 8250C has Magellan's proprietary SayWhere text-to-speech capabilities to read street names and directions.
Gildas Le Masson, Magellan's director of product marketing in emerging markets like China, says a system powered by speech applications makes sense in China due to the language's large number of characters (47,035). Giving users the ability to quickly enter text, rather than scroll through lists of Chinese characters, saves time, while speech conversion can rapidly generate phonemes to dictate directions.
Though the product is now available with only simplified Chinese, Le Masson says other versions of Chinese—a language with 206 local dialects— will be added soon, but represents a challenge. "We are really close to delivering both simplified and more complicated Chinese," he states. "Having both, we will cover most of the language. At least for the two main forms of Chinese, we'll be compatible. It's a very complex process because you need to have both the display with the writing recognition, and the TTS all in the different languages."
The products, which will be introduced over the next two months, range in price from $350 to $650. The priciest models come preloaded with text-to-speech capabilities. The price of each model represents one-tenth of the cost of the average car in China.
"We are still in a situation in China in which there is not too much competition, and the price of the technology can be that kind of price," Le Masson says. "We will definitely work on [lowering the price], and we will know that [new price] in the future as we develop the market."
The Taiwanese company Zenitron, which distributes electronics and semiconductors in China, will market, service, and support the products there.