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Ford introduces Sync voice control system

Posted: 10 Mar 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ford Sync  voice control system  speech recognition technology 

Ford Motor Co. unveiled its Sync voice control system to the European market at the CeBIT computer show claiming features especially designed for high-end vehicles. Offering functionalities that go beyond just voice control and voice synthesis, Sync brings significant computing power into vehicles—on top of what already is integrated under the hoods.

Running under Microsoft Windows CE OS, Sync aims to provide an easy-to-use interface between the driver and the car's infotainment system, including CE devices connected to the vehicle's head unit by means of Bluetooth or USB. The system accepts spoken instructions by the driver. It also can turn written text messages into spoken language. For this purpose, Ford uses speech recognition technology from Nuance Communications.

What distinguishes the European Sync version from the U.S. version (which has already been on the market for quite some time) is that it had to be modified for European conditions—different languages, different date formats and different dimension units. The European Sync version understands 19 different languages and even dialects.

Sync enables control of navigation systems, air conditioning and infotainment systems. It connects to cell phones via Bluetooth and offers hand-free functionality. It also transfers the phone directory including photos into the vehicle's head unit and shows related data at the central display. A USB port connects MP3 players and the like while an SD card reader as well as Cinch receptacles can be used to connect to audio or video data sources.

On top of this, sync offers the functionality of a Wi-Fi hotspot, supporting up to five different users inside the car. Mobile Internet connection is achieved by means of a USB modem stick or a smartphone, coupled to Sync via Bluetooth. In that, Sync falls somewhat short of what, for example, Audi integrates into its top-of-the line vehicles—but at a much lower price. The software is upgradeable by end users; upgrades are not reserved to official Ford dealers.

Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally unveiled the system at CeBIT, just as Audi CEO Rupert Stadler rolled out the carmaker's infotainment strategy at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—a clear indication of the importance automotive OEMs are giving to CE integration and internet connectivity.

Ford's Sync will be available in Europe beginning 2012. Mulally said he expects two million [20 lakh] vehicles to be equipped with the system by 2015.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
  EE Times

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