Yesterday, I discussed how one of my top technologies to watch in 2012 – motion recognition technology – is showing signs of building momentum.
Another item on my watch list – voice control technology – is also beginning to pick up steam. Only it’s not necessarily in the smartphone industry, as I expected.
You see, not everyone is sold on whether voice control technology in smartphones is actually going to catch on. No matter how accurate, dependable, or feature-rich the application is, people just feel strange speaking aloud to their mobile devices in public. And all the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4S owners that I know say the novelty of Siri – a virtual assistant that uses voice recognition technology from Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN) – wore off after a few weeks.
So interest in voice controls in mobile devices might not last. Still, there’s one place in which the technology would be incredibly useful: automobiles.
That’s because it allows you to control applications without taking your eyes off the road.
For instance, Wall Street Daily’s Managing Editor, Katharine Schildt, says, “When I first got the iPhone 4S I used Siri just about every day, especially in the car. But now, after owning it for about six months, I don’t find myself asking Siri to do much of anything. There are times I still use it to text someone while I’m in the car, but that’s about it.”
Indeed, texting while driving is never a good idea. So voice control apps like Siri could help us stay connected safely.
Very soon, though, voice control features in the car won’t just be useful, but downright necessary.
New Distraction-Packed Cars on the Way
IMS Research predicts that the world market for connected cars (or vehicles with their own data connections) will grow 650% by 2017, reaching 40.5 million units.
At that point forget eating, drinking, flipping through music stations, dealing with navigation systems, or messing around with the temperature controls. As more wired cars hit the streets, a whole new world of distractions will come with them. Cars will be able to update your Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) status, catch you up on work email, conduct video conferences, read the news, check movie times, buy concert tickets and, yes, text your friends.
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In other words, cars will soon perform the same functions as smartphones, only while rocketing 70 miles per hour down an expressway.
So as we continue to look for new ways to stay connected in our cars, it’s no wonder that 69% of those polled in a recent JD Power 2012 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study said they want to see voice-activated controls in their vehicles.
And that’s exactly what Nuance has developed.
Enter, Dragon Drive!
Yesterday, Nuance unveiled “Dragon Drive!” – its voice control software for automobiles.
With this technology, drivers can command their cars to perform a number of functions without touching a thing. They’ll be able to locate businesses, get directions, text, browse for information, search for and listen to music, and listen to news and emails.
Check out the video below to see it in action…
Better yet, since the company’s leveraging the same voice recognition backbone used in Siri, drivers can speak naturally (i.e. – not like a robot) and the car will understand. That alone is huge, since constantly checking to see if the car understood your command defeats the purpose of hands- and eyes-free functionality.
Dragon Drive! is already available in six languages, and the company is working on additional languages and more features.
And given that it solves a huge safety concern faced by increasingly connected cars, you can bet that auto manufacturers are tuned in.
As Jack Bergquist, an Automotive Analyst from IMS Research, says, “As connectivity continues to push into the car, bringing with it a host of new services and features, the risk of driver distraction is becoming a key issue for every vehicle manufacturer… Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly turning to natural voice-based interfaces to simplify more complex command tasks and to provide information and data back to the driver in a way that avoids them needing to take their eyes off the road.”