Monday, February 18, 2008

Sync Me Not

In a prior posting I wrote, "Voice recognition software. This will fundamentally change the way we interact with machines. "Computers" will be embedded in every device so that we can tell them what to do." In that posting, I wrote that current software from Microsoft, IBM, Dragon et al. was not up to the task.

Now, along comes Ford selling cars with Microsoft's "Sync," which claims to be a voice-controlled, on-board music, radio and communications system. What are the chances that this system works as advertised (see

Knowing what I do about the state of the art, I bet a colleague of mine that Sync's voice recognition feature does not work well enough to be useful -- certainly not like it does in one of the ads where a passenger orders up a Michael Bolton song. The implication is that the system hears someone sitting in the passenger seat when the car is moving and understands a voice that it has not been trained to understand. (This is something that I know from experience that high-powered PC cannot do adequately in a quiet office.)

For a preliminary answer, let's consult the Internet... For now, there's not a lot of real information about Sync. Several technology journalists tried Sync when it was unveiled. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "I found the voice-command system surprisingly reliable. In four days of testing, I encountered only a few instances in which my commands were misunderstood." (Source)

One fellow who owns a Ford Explorer with Sync comments, "I only use the SNYC for recharging the iPod and very rarely for voice commanding the iPod. (Not to mention feeling like an idiot yelling at your dashboard to play something and the voice commands giving you idiotic responces) I'll stick to a click or 2 on the iPod menu and leave the voice SYNC for handsfree phone."

In this instance, I am more inclined to believe the Ford Explorer guy (bad grammar, misspellings and all) than Walt Mossberg. Something tells me that Walt's ride was tricked out by Ford & Microsoft in ways that boosted his results/opinions.

I'm still a skeptic.

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