2011 Kia Optima: UVO Allows Hands-Free Calling, Audio Features

September 27, 2010

In the 2011 Kia Optima, Bluetooth connectivity and USB device connectivity come standard—even on the base LX model.

But if you step up to Kia's new UVO (short for YourVoice) connectivity system, you'll get a fully capable voice-control system that rivals the best systems on the market and is only clearly trumped by the latest versions of Ford's leading-edge Sync system.

This past week, as we took a first drive in the 2011 Optima, Kia Connected Car Manager Henry Bzeih took some time out to show us through the features added by UVO.

UVO uses Microsoft architecture, as does Sync, Bzeih explained, though while Ford uses a proprietary speech processor Kia employs a system from Tellme Networks—a company that pioneered speech-recognition software for call centers and now also a Microsoft subsidiary.

Like Ford's Sync, UVO can interface with media players and smartphones, answer and place phone calls, send and receive text messages, and access music through various voice commands—including natural-language prompts like, "What's playing?"

In addition, UVO can even rip CDs to a small 1 GB onboard storage space.

The system is already out in the 2011 Kia Sorento and 2011 Kia Sportage, and it's due soon in the 2011 Kia Optima we see here, as well as in most of the Kia lineup.

But there's one major hitch as of yet: UVO doesn't play (at all) with the navigation system Kia uses, so at least for the first year or so, it's one or the other.

See below as Bzeih showed us how easy it is to make a call, change audio sources, or even tune a particular station, genre, artist, or song. No need to follow the command structure. After an initial command like play, dial, or call, the system deduces the rest.

And for the glossy Microsoft presentation, check this out:

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