AACHEN, Germany – Ford Motor Company and voice technology leader Nuance Communications have revealed the future trends shaping their approach to developing more intuitive in-car voice recognition.
Ford and Nuance are working to constantly improve voice recognition through an evolution toward an embedded system capable of understanding natural speech, and delivering further enhancement using “the cloud”.
Nuance has been integral to the development of SYNC, the voice activated in-car connectivity system from Ford, which will make its European debut on all-new B-MAX later this year. Its voice technology expertise has played a key role in overcoming challenges including the number of languages and dialects spoken across the region.
“Delivering SYNC for Europe has been a significant step for Ford and Nuance,” said Pim van der Jagt, Ford European Research Centre managing director. “Helping define the future of voice activated systems for Ford customers will be among the key focuses of our research and development teams in the years ahead.”
SYNC’s voice activation in Europe will initially support UK English, EU French, EU Spanish, EU Portuguese, German, Italian, Turkish, Dutch and Russian, and will enable users to issue concise instructions such as “call (contact name)” or “play artist (artist name)”. The system will be compatible with 19 languages worldwide in the near future, as Ford targets 13 million SYNC customers globally by 2015, including 3.5 million in Europe.
The system’s language capabilities help facilitate the award-winning Ford Emergency Assistance feature, which alerts local emergency services operators, in the correct local language based on GPS coordinates from the vehicle, after an accident.
Ford and Nuance are now working towards embedded systems for interpretation of the user’s natural speech, allowing people to intuitively operate vehicle features by speaking as they would to a friend, for a more responsive experience with more voice activation possibilities. This includes researching voice recognition that can understand the user’s intent based on key words or phrases, even when the exact command is not given.
In the long term, Ford also believes cloud-computing may play an important role in delivering even more sophisticated voice activation.
The additional computing power and access to external reference databases offered by cloud-computing could help future voice activation systems understand natural speech; provide highly intuitive occupant-to-vehicle interaction with on-board features, systems and devices; and improve voice enabled content and services, beyond music, entertainment and social media.
Alongside systems for the automotive environment, Nuance provides a broad portfolio of voice and natural language understanding technologies and applications that span mobile phones, tablets, PCs and televisions, including the successful Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Dragon Dictation, Dragon Go! and Dragon TV.
“Voice technology has matured beyond simply recognising what has been said, to now include natural language processing that understands what we mean, to access content and achieve specific outcomes,” said Dr. Stefan Ortmanns, Mobile Engineering senior vice president, Nuance.
“It’s now at the centre of the next generation of human machine interactions and deployed in several billions of mobile devices, computers, cars, TVs, healthcare systems, and customer care applications.”
The ability to voice activate a greater number of features can keep drivers connected while offering greater convenience and safety behind the wheel.
SYNC already features in more than 4 million vehicles in the U.S., and will roll out to vehicles such as Focus, C-MAX, Transit and Fiesta in Europe before the end of the year.