Sidebars: Experience, history, and off into the cloud
Early on the road
This editor had the chance to sample early automotive voice recognition in driving one of the first Jaguar S-Types in the late '90s. A set of simple, structured commands was used to control the audio/radio system and climate control. I remember when trying to "Set temperature, 72 degrees" the system would not understand me, but I could set it to 70 or 74 (which was recognized), and then use an "up" or "down" command to bring it to 72.
How y'all doin'?
Nuance's Brian Radloff says the company's speech recognition systems come in 28 languages for automotive applications. Within these language models, a variety of accents are built-in, such as U.S. regional dialects. Also algorithms in the recognition engine adapt to the speaker by learning from which system responses are corrected by the user. In contrast, some early systems were "trained" to the user's voice by listening to a series of test words—which would probably take a long time with today's more extensive vocabularies (grammars).
Hyundai goes off into the cloud (with handholding)
Hyundai is currently introducing its Blue Link
telematics system with voice recognition features that are partially based off-board the vehicle. The system was developed by Hyundai and telematics services provider ATX Group
, and uses Nuance and Vlingo
speech recognition software.
With voice recognition, the physical interface for Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system is simple and clean.
The system marries speech recognition with agent assist, says ATX' Don Tryon, senior director, account management. Initial interactive voice recognition at a conversational pace is done with Nuance software. The response to the request, say for directions or a point-of-interest, is analyzed and monitored by Vlingo tools (which have a large cloud-based library of "utterances"). If the system has a confidence level on the order of 90% surity of the command, functionality remains on the vehicle. If it falls below, an agent—using a list of options provided by Vlingo—will talk to the driver for clarification and assistance.
In developing Blue Link, the importance of development kits from the software providers cannot be underestimated, states Michael Deitz, senior group manager for Connected Car at Hyundai. "The sooner a system can be in the car for testing the better," he adds. The kits enable early checking of system performance in the actual vehicle's acoustic environment.
An embarrassment of recognition riches
When we talk about challenges in voice recognition, as engineers we tend to think in terms of signal-to-noise ratios and algorithms. But QNX' Scott Pennock notes another hurdle is simply making users aware of speech-enabled features and functions—so they can have a more pleasant and productive drive.
That thought is echoed by Ford's Brigitte Richardson. "People get into a car with so many features, such as traffic information, phones, and satellite and HD radio, but they don't know what you can control by voice. Likewise, they won't know what to say to give a command and interact with the car," she notes. "People are reluctant to go through a system-given tutorial or read a large manual (as we provided in 2009). Many users are unaware we provide weather radar or 'one-shot' destination entry (just by saying an address), which are very useful."
Ford's SYNC voice recognition has evolved rapidly since being introduced in 2007.
Because of such tendencies, Ford and Nuance added much more grammar with lots of aliases (synonyms that are embedded but not "advertised") to make its SYNCTM
system easier to access with minimal "training," Richardson says. She adds that the overall "take rate" for SYNC since its introduction in 2007, thanks to its features and utility, has been 79% across the Ford brand. The technology is complex, Richardson states, but that complexity is in the voice-recognition engine—simplifying the user interface is key to acceptance and usability.
This article was originally published in EDN.
If you liked this article, go to the Automotive Designline home page
for the latest in automotive electronics design, technology, trends, products, and news. Also, get a weekly highlights update delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for our weekly automotive electronics newsletter here