Ford Sync voice recognition explodes to more than 10,000 commands

Today, Ford announced that its Sync in-car command, navigation, and entertainment system has improved its voice recognition interface by increasing the vocabulary by more than 100x, allowing system commands to be much simpler and more direct.

The Sync system was developed through Ford's partnership with Microsoft, and launched in 2007 on twelve 2008 Ford vehicles. At first, the system was very limited in what it could do, and included the ability to operate USB media players hands-free, connect to mobile phones via bluetooth, and export diagnostic data. The voice interface launched with around 100 commands, which reflected more or less the menu structure of the system.

With the new voice command system available in the next generation of Sync called MyFord Touch, users will be able to speak commands in various ways and not have to simply navigate menus by voice.

For example, users would have to first say what device they were going to access before they could perform an action. If they wanted to call someone, they first had to say "Phone," or if they wanted to switch the song that was playing on their iPod or Zune, they'd have to first say "USB." With the new system, users can just say "Call (name)," for example, and the connected phone will start the calling process.

"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," said Brigitte Richardson, Ford global voice control technology and speech systems lead engineer.

The speech recognition engine, designed by Nuance Communications, can recognize different voices and create user profiles for them within three commands. This means multiple users can easily use the hands-free system without having to "train" it, as other systems currently require.

The new voice recognition system, and MyFord Touch, is launching this year on the 2011 Ford Edge.

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