More than seven years back, Ford Motor Company and Microsoft joined hands to collaborate on developing an advanced software platform that enables drivers to concentrate on the road, while voice commands take over the job of managing the music being played, or even attending to phone calls.
SYNC, as the platform is called, is an in-car connectivity system that allows customers the convenience and flexibility to bring digital media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to operate via voice commands.
The release of SYNC was announced at the Detroit International Auto Show in January 2007, and was subsequently introduced in retail markets the same year. The first Ford product to feature SYNC in India is the just-launched EcoSport. Since its market introduction, Ford has reportedly sold over 5 mn cars and trucks with SYNC, and the company expects to sell an additional 9 mn by 2015.
WHAT LIES INSIDE?
At the heart of SYNC is Windows Embedded Automotive, a powerful and reliable software platform from the Microsoft stable. The platform, which can be updated at any given time, allows the vehicle maker to deliver a comprehensive control and connectivity package to the consumer. The platform supports integration of new capabilities to take advantage of latest innovations in consumer technology.
SYNC ensures a high level of privacy to the stored data on a consumer’s mobile device. Unlike embedded connectivity systems, SYNC allows access to user’s stored contact information only when the phone is connected. Owners of the EcoSport, for instance, could pair up to 12 different mobile devices wirelessly using Bluetooth. The centrally located display screen projects all the relevant data, like one sees on their phones.
The system recognises up to 150 unique voice commands. In addition, it is capable of identifying varying types of accents and vocabulary. The voice technology has been developed by Ford in association with its voice technology partner, Nuance Communications. In India, SYNC will be available in UK English. Nuance’s natural text-to-speech technology is also behind “Serena”, the female voice of SYNC’s UK English version.
Uninterrupted connections: SYNC lets you continue your conversation, as it transfers your call to the system the moment you start the car.
Automatic phone book download: SYNC automatically downloads the names and numbers programmed in your compatible phone to save you time and trouble. To ensure privacy, the stored contact information is accessible only when the phone is connected.
Voice-control your phone: SYNC allows you to answer a call at the push of a button, and make a call through voice commands.
Voice-activated music: SYNC lets you browse the music collection on the digital media player, mobile phone or USB drive by genre, album, artist and song title using voice commands, such as “Play genre Rock”.
Audible text messaging: SYNC can read out incoming texts and even translate commonly used abbreviations and emoticons, such as LOL and :-). You can respond with up to 15 preset outgoing messages.