Voice-Activated Car Gadgets

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • Clarion's AutoPC.
  • HOTech's Voicedex and CarKit.
  • TraveRoute's Co-Pilot 2000.
  • JVC's El Kameleon II KD-LX50.

I still remember when it was exciting to have a CD player installed in my car. These days an auto CD player is about as "high tech" as a cigarette lighter. In the wake of the debate regarding how driver-distracting cell phones, complicated stereo systems and on-board e-mail access can be, the new wave of car gadgets are voice-activated. A gadget that follows verbal instructions allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Plus, they’re pretty cool.

Check out the following four voice activated car gadgets, just hitting the streets with degrees of voice-recognition capability:

Clarion's AutoPC

Clarion, Microsoft and a host of other companies have joined together to bring us AutoPC. It’s an elegant and attractive in-dash personal assistant that runs the Windows CE operating system (the "Mini-Me" of Papa Windows). While it may be described as the ultimate car stereo, it goes beyond playing music.

For starters, the AutoPC recognizes verbal commands and will dial a phone number, select a CD, give driving directions, change radio stations and read e-mail subjects. The actual unit fits in a single dashboard slot, with the computer and six-disc CD changer stored in your trunk.

The basic systems can be yours for $1,299. Peripherals available include a hand-free kit for your wireless phone, wireless messaging, emergency roadside assistance and diagnostic warnings from the computer.

HOTech's Voicedex and CarKit

Taiwan-based HOTech offers two interesting voice-activated gadgets. The first is Voicedex. This is a hand-held, palm-sized device that stores names and phone numbers. Each name you enter is repeated twice so that the device learns to recognize your voice and pronunciation. When you say the name again, Voicedex automatically brings up the name and can dial the number for you. The company claims a 98% accuracy rate on name recognition, even in a noisy environment.

Priced at $79, Voicedex stores up to 60 phone numbers. With its familiar numerical keypad and only six command buttons to remember, the Voicedex is pretty easy to master.

CarKit expands what Voicedex can do for you while you drive. One cool feature is automatically turning the car radio’s volume down or pausing your tape or CD when you received incoming calls or make outgoing calls. CarKit can work with you car's stereo speakers for voice output, eliminating the need to hold your cell phone. Adding the CarKit will set you back $299.

TraveRoute's Co-Pilot 2000

TraveRoute's aim is to deliver turn-by-turn driving directions, mapping and travel information directly to your car with the Co-Pilot 2000.

In the August 2000 edition of Home Office Computing, the Co-Pilot was described as making "navigating painless," adding that the writers "wouldn't want to navigate any other way." So what's all the fuss about?

It's about a car system that displays the shortest possible route with turn-by-turn driving directions to a specific street or a highlighted map area. But that's not all. Co-Pilot recognizes about 22 different spoken commands like "next turn" or "where am I?" The system will respond with the directions and can even calculate an alternate route if you stray off the first one.

Co-Pilot works with your laptop PC and retails for $399.

JVC's El Kameleon II KD-LX50

The El Kameleon II is what you might call an "ultimate AM/FM/CD system." This in-dash system comes equipped with voice recognition, microphone, satellite control, and hideaway unit — all for $429.95.

The simple voice command "CD" will instruct the system to change from FM radio to the CD player. The same applies to changing CDs or radio stations. In fact, the El Kameleon II responds to up to 25 other commands.

While definitely "high tech," the El Kameleon II display screen is surprisingly easy-to-read and security conscious. When in use, the screen displays the name of the artist playing on your CD; when the car is turned off, the system switches off the LCD display so that it blends in with your console.

Another great feature ensures against audio distortion. The system automatically corrects phase delay and distortion to ensure that the output sound is as true to the original recording as possible. In addition, to accommodate changes in the car's speed and to offset engine, wind, and road noise, the system has an anti-noise acoustic control system that automatically adjusts volume levels while you drive.

An optional VCR/TV system is also available. Many of the VCR controls are voice-activated. For SharpMen with rug rats, this may be the perfect way to keep children entertained in the back seat.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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