At the Paris Motor Show recently Elektrobit (EB) and Nuance announced that they’ve integrated voice with natural language understanding (NLU) as part of the virtual cockpit in Audi’s TT Roadster.
The virtual cockpit places infotainment as well as traditional dashboard information on a large screen directly in front of the driver. The point of integrating voice and NLU is to allow the driver to speak in a more natural conversational tone. Presuming it works, and I have no reason to think it won’t, it’s a potential step beyond the average vehicle interface.
With the technology, the firms said, drivers can engage in a more natural, conversational dialogue with the car’s infotainment and navigation systems, talking the same way they’d talk to a friend. I’m thinking about the way such a conversation might go and what it would take to build a system able to comprehend and respond appropriately.
But EB and Nuance provided some examples, like “Where is the next gas station on our way?” or “Could you please find the nearest restaurant?” There is still a difference between talking to a computer – or a car, in this case, and thinking out loud. That may come next.
Drivers and passengers can control the system menu, phone, tuner, media and navigation features through everyday speech, without having to stick to defined commands. There may be a difference between everyday speech and the way one might talk to a friend – or not.
EB and Nuance promise “an even more consistent, natural speech dialogue with incredibly accurate speech recognition and text-to-speech that has been optimized for the automotive environment.” That, in turn, has potential to create “a smarter, safer in-car experience that allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road, and hands on the wheel.”
EB integrated the NLU voice technology into the developer ecosystem, facilitating communication with the various applications (navigation, phone, organizer, etc.). e.solutions GmbH, a company jointly owned by EB and Audi, did the application integration work.
Natural language understanding in the Audi TT will be available in German and English (UK) at first, with more languages to follow.