2011 Kia Sorento
Kia is no longer taking second stage with respect to in-car technology. This week it's showing a new voice-control system for communication and audio that sounds every bit as full-featured as industry-leading systems such as Ford's Sync.
At the time of its launch a few years ago, Ford was the only automaker to offer a simple voice-driven interface that's good for functions ranging from making phone calls to sending messages and even choosing what music to play. Developed through a partnership with Microsoft, Sync has also been a true standout in its ability to read SMS text messages, free of fuss.
Kia UVO logo
Also co-developed with Microsoft, Kia's new 'Your Voice' (or UVO for short) system will be able to answer and place phone calls, send and receive SMS test messages, and access music via voice commands, just like the original version of Ford's Sync system.
'Your Voice' is the first to integrate full Microsoft speech engine technology, Kia says, which trains to the user's voice, with up to two different voice profiles, even in different languages.
The system includes a 4.3-inch full-color display that allows quick scrolling through media lists and content, via voice commands. A rear-view camera system is included.
Music is definitely a part of it. UVO supports prompts such as "What's playing?" and audibly replies so as to help keep eyes on the road; it will also come with a Jukebox function, utilizing one gigabyte of storage. Although Kia didn't indicate so in an initial release, we anticipate that it will, like Sync, be able to access files on USB thumb drives.
Labeled "UVO powered by Microsoft," the system was codeveloped with Microsoft and runs on Windows Embedded Auto software. One key feature of the new system is that it's able to continuously update its features and services, including over the air or over the Web, via the Microsoft platform.
2011 Kia Sorento
Although Kia hasn't said anything about Internet access through the system, Ford might still maintain a tech advantage; it recently announced that as part of an updated Sync system it will soon allow Web access through USB modems, turning vehicles effectively into an in-car hotspot.
The Kia system will make its official debut at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday, then first be available in the 2011 Kia Sorento this summer. Other Kia models are expected to get the technology in the near future.