David Hasselhoff and KITT from Knight RiderEnlarge Photo
For decades, man has dreamed of speaking into thin air and having computers fulfill his every wish. Despite the potential downsides of living in such a world -- as seen in movies like 2001 or Terminator or I, Robot -- the fantasy lives on. As proof, we need look no further than the 1980s TV series Knight Rider or, more recently, commercials featuring Zooey Deschanel.
When Michael Knight (played by hamburger aficionado David Hasselhoff) spoke commands to KITT, he never asked the car to send a text message. But 30 years down the line, phone calls are poised to become relics of the past, while emails and texts are the order of the day. The folks at Nuance Communications are betting that you'll want to be able to dictate those missives while driving, so they've created Dragon Drive! (exclamation point included).
Nuance, of course, makes the popular Dragon Naturally Speaking voice-to-text software, so integrating a similar system into dashboards was a logical next step for the company. By using Dragon Drive!, Nuance says that "Drivers experience a conversational mobile assistant messaging experience that lets them speak, listen and respond to text messages and emails – keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."
So, for example, you'll be able to call out: "Send a text to Anna Smith, 'I'm stuck in traffic. I'll be at the office as soon as possible.'" Or, "Listen to the email from Alex".
Nuance also says that users will be able to use Dragon Drive! to search for local businesses, get directions, control music playback devices, and pull information from the web -- the latter of which will come in handy when you and your better half argue over whether the voice of KITT, William David Daniels, is alive or dead. (Note: alive.)
In a press release, Nuance says that Dragon Drive! will roll out this summer, with English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish versions. However, the company is vague on details about how the system will be sold.
Mashable reports that the company is working with manufacturers to install Dragon Drive! on new vehicles, but that it won't be available for older models. We'd be surprised, though, if Nuance weren't planning to launch an aftermarket system in the future.
In theory, Dragon Drive! is an exciting development. It promises to keep drivers connected with friends and family without sacrificing safety.
However, we have at least three concerns:
1. Hands-free communications aren't necessarily safer than those conducted via hand-held devices. In fact, researchers are beginning to think that it's the conversation that poses the problem, not whether the driver is holding a phone to her ear.
2. Voice-to-text software is still pretty clunky. If you've ever used Dragon Naturally Speaking or had a one-sided fight with an automated phone system (the kind you encounter when, say, calling the cable company), you know that they're prone to misunderstand. And making corrections requires a lot of attention -- perhaps too much attention for a driver. Since Dragon Drive! is aimed at composing shorter messages, maybe that will pose less of a problem, but we're still far away from KITT or HAL.
3. Dragon Drive! isn't especially new. Voice-command systems are fairly common on high-end automobiles, and they're en route to mass-market vehicles as we speak. Dragon Drive! might generate a convenient partnership for an automaker that doesn't have such a system in the works, but for others...
Is Dragon Drive! something you'd be interested in purchasing? Have a look at this promo video, then drop us a line, or leave a comment below.