Long story short, voice technology as we know it is comprised of two components: speech and voice recognition. Speech recognition converts spoken words into digital words, and voice recognition identifies speakers by different features of speech like intonation, pitch, and style. With that in mind, today we’ll be focusing on speech recognition as it relates to voice technology. Actually, it might be better to say as it relates to KITT if you’re a fan of 80s TV (Knight Rider!!!) because today we’re talking about voice technology in cars.
What Is Voice Technology in Cars?Voice technology in cars is exactly what you think it is… maybe. If you’re thinking it’s like having a helper in the car with you, ready to control your music or give you directions when you’re lost, then you are correct. As for where it is, it’s gotten to the point that in-car speech recognition systems have become the standard in most new car models because, apart from being convenient, they’re safe. The thing is, whether it’s glancing at a text or looking up directions, we can’t help but take our eyes off the road every now and then. Well, with voice technology in tow, the days of driving while distracted are a thing of the past.
The Present of Voice Technology in CarsNow you may be wondering how you can get your hands on one of these. Lucky for us, a plethora of car companies announced plenty of new and cool voice features their cars are equipped with during CES 2018. For starters, Toyota broke the news that it’s integrating Amazon Alexa into some of its 2018/19 models. “Voice services are rapidly becoming more popular and through our integration with Amazon Alexa,” said Zack Hicks, Senior VP, and CIO of Toyota Motor North America and CEO and President of Toyota Connected, “Toyota and Lexus customers will soon be able to easily speak to Alexa in their cars while on-the-go.” Along with a similar vein, Ford is actually already using Alexa to offer consumers the ability to access their car from home, and call up other features from their vehicle.
This means that Toyota, Lexus and Ford drivers will be able to ask Alexa to do things both in the car and at home, similar to how the Amazon Echo works. For example, they can ask Alexa for directions, to play a certain song, podcast or audiobook, and to control other Alexa smart home devices as well. In other words, they can control everything in their car AND adjust the temperature in their home so it’s ready as soon as they arrive, add groceries to their shopping list if they suddenly remember they need something, and so much more.
The Future Uses of Voice Technology in CarsAnd now, the future, which we’ll begin covering by saying that it looks good. For example, Nvidia and Mercedes-Benz announced a partnership for MBUX, a personalized AI feature available in 23 languages that learns and anticipates your needs. As NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said, “I want to build the world’s most advanced cockpit of the future and it’s going to have amazing computer graphics but most important is that it will have artificial intelligence so it can revolutionize the user experience.” For us, this means a zero-lag touchscreen with 3D animations that is voice activated with the phrase, “Hey, Mercedes.”
Breaking the MBUX down, it can be compared to an in-car infotainment system with AI capabilities to switch up how drivers and passengers interact with their vehicles. For example, MBUX will be able to understand the context of colloquial questions. That is to say that instead of the general “check weather in New York” to know whether or not you can wear your new sandals, a simple “Hey, Mercedes, can I wear my sandals on Saturday?” will do just fine. Additionally, MBUX will be able to save and suggest your favorite music as you drive, track your destinations and anticipate where you’re planning on going, and even track eye and head movement and arm gestures to know whether you’re looking at the road or not, or which window you’re pointing at when you tell it to open it.
BONUS: We already mentioned that Ford comes packed with Alexa, but did you know that they’re looking to launch a “vehicle-to-everything” communication system? In essence, it’ll be a cloud network of cars that act as a ‘supercomputing assistant’ that sends traffic data directly to you so you can avoid jams and get to your desired destination as fast as possible. Therefore, instead of asking for assistance, Ford’s solution would be for their cars to anticipate your needs and use the data of cars around you to give you the knowledge you need while you drive.