Apple’s Siri voice command took consumer electronics to new heights with its natural voice recognition system. Automakers were suddenly sent scrambling to update their infotainment systems, which looked hopelessly antiquated with their so-called “gateway commands” (e.g., “Radio on”) and stilted command tree (e.g. “Play disc two, track three.”).
Nuance Mobile has stepped in to fill in the Siri-in-the-car gap with its Dragon Drive natural language voice recognition system. The company is in familiar territory here: its technology powers Apple’s Siri and Ford’s own MyFord Touch. Other automakers, like BMW, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz, use Nuance in their vehicle infotainment systems as well.
Nuance’s Dragon Drive allows drivers to verbally direct their vehicle’s various infotainment systems like audio, navigation, and newsfeed, all using natural language. Thus, using in the example above, the driver would simply say, “play the third song on the second CD.” Unlike Siri and Nuance’s Dragon Go app, which also provides natural language commands to smartphones, the Dragon Drive system is not all on the “cloud”, or Internet. That means Dragon Drive users are not subject to the periodic interruptions, like when Siri loses its connection to the Internet. Instead, Dragon Drive uses a hybrid system where certain voice commands are processed first in the car’s hard disc, then sent to the cloud to be processed before being sent back.
Dragon Drive also “learns” a speaker’s cadence as well, and adjusts to background noises, like wind noise through an open window. Finally, Dragon Drive is built into the vehicle’s head unit; it doesn’t care if the speaker is using a smartphone, iPhone, or even the vehicle’s SIM card.
Dragon Drive will start showing up on new vehicle models later this year. The company was coy on which automakers would be utilizing the technology and which of their models would actually be using it.