IBM, Honda deliver speech-recognition navigation system

IBM and Honda Motor US have announced that they have jointly developed a hands-free and natural-sounding in-vehicle speech-recognition system.

Honda will offer the system as standard equipment on the 2005 Acura RL and as an option on the 2005 Honda Odyssey, according to Alistair Rennie, vice president of sales for IBM's pervasive computing division.

Using IBM's Embedded ViaVoice software, the in-car navigation system can recognize spoken street and city names across the continental U.S., he said. ViaVoice takes the verbal string of numbers, digitizes the string and turns it into bits of information that are then transmitted to the application.

The system enables drivers to use voice commands to ask for driving directions and then receive voice-guided turn-by-turn instructions, so they don't have to take their hands off the wheel, Rennie said. The vehicles will recognize more than 700 voice commands and more than 1.7 million street and city names.

And if a driver has the radio volume really loud, the system knows to turn it down so the driver can hear the directions. Because the voice-recognition technology is integrated into the car's audio system, driving instructions can be heard over the speakers.

"It goes significantly beyond what was done before in terms of being able to deliver an integrated speech experience in a car," Rennie said. "We also worked with Honda on the process to be able to deliver a very natural voice in the car."

Rennie said research teams from the two companies digitally processed hundreds of hours of speech recordings found in earlier-model Honda systems to create a natural-sounding text-to-speech system.

The technology also provides command-and-control capabilities for the audio, DVD and climate control systems, he said.

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