Microsoft Further Expands Car Systems

SVOX, a Swiss provider of embedded speech solutions, has begun collaborating with Microsoft to speechify in-vehicle communication, infotainment, and navigation products.

Both companies anticipate that this partnership will enable much faster turn around of projects. Currently, Microsoft Auto 3.0 SDK features SVOX text-to-speech.  

In recent months, Microsoft has been especially busy establishing partnerships to bolster its automotive offerings. In May, Microsoft and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group entered a long-term agreement to codevelop in-car infotainment systems.

Part of the allure of SVOX’s text-to-speech is its ability to function in multilingual environments, said Martin Thrall, general manager of Microsoft’s Automotive Business Unit, in a press release. 

SVOX hopes to meet rapidly growing demand for automotive devices that offer connectivity and hands-free controls. On July 1, California will join Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington State, and Washington, DC, in implementing legislation that bans all but hands-free mobile phones while driving.

Also, with the popularity of Ford Sync, which uses Microsoft’s platform and Nuance’s speech technology, analysts expect automotive infotainment solutions to become standard features within the next five to seven years. 

"Once you have Bluetooth connectivity and devices, you can be more business-centric. You can do more business applications through speech," says Datamonitor senior analyst Daniel Hong. "You can access your email and do unified communications while driving. That might be the next generation. You can access more information, maybe Web information. It’s about getting the right interface."

But developers still haven’t worked out the best interface to use in specific driving situations. Hong acknowledges that while speech will be an important part of the interface, it won’t necessarily be the dominant one. "People still like knobs and controlling with buttons," he says. "You increasingly see the touchscreen for the telematics. You can do a lot more with touchscreen in terms of the console and the user interface."

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