- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 22, 2010

DEARBORN, Mich. | Ford made in-car voice activation a reality for millions of drivers with SYNC, first introduced in 2007. Now, Ford engineers - working with voice technology pioneers Nuance Communications plan to once again raise the bar with the next generation of SYNC, a system that can understand 100 times more commands than the original, thus delivering a more conversational experience between car and driver.

The voice upgrades will be available on the next generation of SYNC powering the new driver connect technology, MyFord Touch, launching this year on the new 2011 Ford Edge. The system will make it easier for drivers to use voice control and get what they want more quickly using more natural phrases.

Ford is committed to making voice recognition the primary user interface inside of the car because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Jim Buczkowski, director of Ford electronics and electrical systems engineering. “The improvements we’ve made will make it easier for drivers to use and interact with it, even those customers that have never used voice recognition before.”

At the heart of SYNC is the speech engine, and Ford is working with speech technology leader Nuance to create and integrate a vast library of possible driver requests. This library will enable the SYNC speech engine to listen for and respond to more voice commands directly, recognize different words that mean the same thing (aliases), and integrate a vast number of point-of-interest (POI) names and business types into its navigation system.

“With this latest generation of SYNC, users can control the system without having to learn nearly as many commands or navigate as many menus,” said Brigitte Richardson, Ford global voice control technology and speech systems lead engineer. “As we’ve gained processing power and learned more about how drivers use the system, we’ve been able to refine the interface. Customers can do more and say more from the top-level menu, helping them accomplish their tasks more quickly and efficiently.”

Examples of some improvements to SYNC powering MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles include:

More direct, first-level commands

“Call John Smith” dials the phone number associated with John in a connected phone’s phonebook directly - the user isn’t required to say “Phone” first.

Direct commands related to destinations, like “Find a shoe store” or “Find a hotel,” place users in the navigation system menu where they will be walked through the POI search process.

The command, “Add a phone,” will enter the phone pairing menu and walk users through the connection process - users don’t have to enter a phone submenu to initiate the pairing process.

Quicker, easier entry and search

Navigation entries can be spoken as a single one-shot command; for example, “One American Road, Dearborn,” instead of requiring individual city, street and building number entries.

Brand names are recognized by the navigation POI menu, allowing drivers to look for chain restaurants, shoe stores, department stores and more, as well as regional and local favorites.

Direct tuning of radio stations by simply saying “AM 1270” or “FM 101.1,” or using SIRIUS station names or numbers such as “21” or “Alt-Nation”.

Use of aliases

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