New Bluetooth Kits Debut With Speech Capability

By Amy Gilroy On Dec 1 2008 - 8:00am




High-tech speech recognition, expected to become a hot feature in mobile electronics, is now offered on Bluetooth kits from Parrot and Funkwerk Americas.

Parrot's new MKi line offers "user independent" voice recognition for the first time from the company, eliminating the need to voice train the unit for each phonebook entry. The Bluetooth hands-free kits are also the first to receive Works with iPhone and Made for iPod approval, said the company.

The MKi Bluetooth kits also talk back to the user via "text to speech" to confirm contact names for the first time from Parrot.

Marketing VP Mike Hedge claimed the kits are designed "so your mom can use them." The user pairs his phone with the unit and then the phonebook automatically uploads. The user can say, "Call Jane," and the unit will dial Jane if she is in the phone book. But it cannot use voice recognition to dial by digits.

They kits can playback music from an iPod, iPhone, USB drive or other device through the car's audio system.

They include a display, a black box, a microphone and a remote control and must be professionally installed.

The MKi9100 has a two-color display at $249 and the MKi9200 has a larger, full-color display with an SD card slot at $299. Both ship in the fourth quarter.

A portable version of the kits, called the MiniKit Slim also uses the same voice-engine technology. It can clip to a sun visor for up to 10 hours of hands-free talktime and will ship in the fourth quarter at $99.99. A limited-edition version with a special design is aimed at women, also for $99.99.

Funkwerk displayed at SEMA two of the first Bluetooth kits to read aloud text messages from a cellphone using text-to-speech.

The Ego Flash and Ego Look both read back text messages in addition to offering "user independent" voice recognition for dialing by name and by digits.

The Ego Flash Bluetooth kit has a 1.6-inch display and adds audio streaming from an iPod or MP3 device at $243. The Ego Look has similar features with a 2.2-inch display at $351.

Also, Funkwerk improved its basic portable model, the Ego cup, that sits in a cup holder and is powered by a cigarette lighter for hands-free calling from a Bluetooth phone. The device has been upgraded to include an FM transmitter to play music from a phone through the car's sound system. It will ship at the end of the month at a suggested retail of $149.

Scosche also announced new BlueFusion Bluetooth interfaces for hands-free calling and audio streaming from an iPod. The user can connect his iPod to a Scosche BlueLife transmitter to give the iPod Bluetooth capability, while the BlueFusion adapter gives the car radio Bluetooth capability. The BlueFusion radio kits are available for General Motors, Toyota and Honda vehicles, and are also available for Eclipse aftermarket radios.

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