Voice Commands Coming Closer to Reality for Telematics

By Joe Francica

_One of the real opportunities in telematics is to provide voice enabled commands from the driver to the in-vehicle navigation system. Few companies have tackled that challenge because of the difficulties at the human-to-machine interface. VoiceBox Technologies seems to have conquered that problem and is now offering tier one and tier two auto suppliers like Johnson Controls the technology to integrate their products with other on-board information systems.

VoiceBox will be working with Johnson Controls to develop hands free phone dialing and in-vehicle music navigation (i.e. channel selection, music genre choice, etc.). The company is already working with XM Satellite Radio to co-develop a voice-search-enabled reference platform. But the goal for VoiceBox is also to integrate with any in-vehicle navigation system to provide information about localized weather, sports events and traffic in order to assist with route guidance around hazardous or congested areas. The company is hoping to convince navigation system providers like Garmin and TomTom that its solution would integrate smoothly with their existing products.

One example provided by VoiceBox that the company hopes to develop is a way to integrate phone services with navigation. For example, if a driver receives an inbound call to his or her phone which already has caller id, the driver would use voice commands to identify the location of the caller and, if desired, plot a route to the caller's address.

The competitive advantage of VoiceBox is that the company seems to have solved the problem associated with voice recognition software. The technology is speaker independent and is able to determine voice inflection and gender within the first 30 to 40 seconds. It is also adaptive so that over time the system "learns" more about the driver’s speech patterns. The company makes the assumption that voice technology will never be good enough and so its objective is to interpret the intention behind the phrases used by the speaker, especially if the sentence is somewhat repetitive or disorganized.

VoiceBox is also focused on what it calls "cooperative conversation," whereby there is feedback at the human and machine interface (HMI). For example, there may be confusion as to the voice directions provided by the speaker. So the machine tries to recognize the phrase and establish some level of confidence in its meaning in order to limit the set of options. If the commands are clear, then they will be executed; if not, the system will offer choices. The company believes that if a good cooperative conversation model can be implemented, then users will find it to be a successful experience.

Published Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Written by Joe Francica

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