By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Advanced voice control is infiltrating the high end of car stereo A/V navigation, with Kenwood, Jensen and Azentek now joining Pioneer in offering the feature.
Advanced voice recognition (that does not require voice training) may also be found in a car kit from Innotech and in a new car computer from Dashboard Electronics. Also other suppliers, including Alpine, said they are working on new voice-command products for the future.
Pioneer acknowledged that its AVIC-F series — the company's first attempt at voice recognition unveiled last year — was fraught with "quirks" such as slow response time, although the company has issued a software update that fixes many of the problems.
Kenwood claims that its new DNX9140 will avoid product glitches because it is using a voice-activation system developed by Garmin that is already widely used in personal navigation devices.
Kenwood is adding one of the most extensive voice-activation systems in car audio, with commands over more devices than the Ford Sync, it claimed.
The flagship DNX9140 all-in-one A/V navigation receiver also controls iPod music, USB music and Bluetooth hands-free calling by voice. It was not known at press time if it will allow voice command over music on a Bluetooth phone.
"You can search your music and video files through whatever is connected to the USB — a flash drive, external hard drive," said Kenwood consumer electronics senior VP Keith Lehmann.
Without voice training, users can command the DNX9140 to navigate to a certain address, play a song or playlist from an iPod, or call a name in one's phone book.
The double-DIN DNX9140 has a 7-inch screen. It is also Kenwood's first unit to offer iTunes tagging so that users can press a button to bookmark a song on HD Radio for purchase later on iTunes. In addition, it is the company's first navigation device to offer MSN Direct real-ime traffic, weather updates and gas price and movie listings as an option.
The unit can play video from an iPod or iPhone and offers USB control of both. It is also Bluetooth audio compatible and HD Radio and satellite radio capable. It is expected to ship in April at a tentative suggested retail price of $1,699.
Audiovox's first voice-recognition model is under the Jensen brand. The VM9513 all-in-one A/V navigation receiver uses voice recognition for iPod searches and certain other functions.
The single-DIN unit has a 7-inch screen and offers USB iPod control. It is Bluetooth ready (with optional adapter) for audio streaming and hands-free calling. Navigation is on a 2GB Micro SD card with text-to-speech pronunciation of street names, 11 million points of interest, U.S. and Canadian maps and voice guidance in 22 languages. It runs on a WinCE operating system and accepts up to 8GB SD cards. It is also XM ready and will ship in February/March at a suggested retail of $699.
Innotech is offering a kit that adds voice control to an iPod in a car mount.
The company's Accenda voice control for iPod has a wireless FM transmitter. It lets users issue voice commands to adjust volume, play songs, stop, go to the next track or previous track and replay a song.
Users plug a tiny 1.5-inch module into the iPod dock connector for voice operation. The module is powered by the iPod and the FM modulator is powered by the cigarette lighter jack.
The Accenda kit works with the iPod nano (first three generations), iPod Touch, iPod with color display, iPod Mini, iPod with click wheel, iPod with video and iPod Classic. It is available now at a suggested retail of $129.
Market newcomer Dashboard Devices will offer a $2,700 in-dash double DIN computer slated for spring production that will also include voice recognition. The car computer will be sold through computer resellers first, and then to CE car audio retailers, it said.
Its device is unique, it claims, in that it offers true dual-zone ability, where passengers can control programs from the rear seat.
It features Wi-Fi, voice activation of many features to be identified at CES, email that can be read aloud, and full computer capability plus navigation and DVD.
Finally, Pioneer will continue to offer its voice controlled AVIC-F series of A/V navigation units, now using version 2.0 software.
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