Ford's in-car voice recognition technology can now understand a host of regional accents, including Scouse, Cockney and even Geordie.
Ford SYNC, developed in partnership with voice technology firm Nuance Communications, lets drivers speak to their car to make calls, play music and set navigation in 17 different languages.
The system is now able to identify and remember a driver’s specific accent after only a few words, thanks to a dictionary of alternative pronunciations compiled using field recordings of thousands of drivers around the world.
“People rightly consider their accent a key to who they are as a person. Practically ensuring that you can easily communicate with your vehicle, whatever part of the country you are from, helps ensure a more convenient journey,” said Christof Kellerwessel, global chief engineer for electronic and electrical systems engineering at Ford of Europe.
Researchers asked drivers of all ages to read paragraphs, give common greetings and recite numbers in towns and cities across the UK, including London, Liverpool and Newcastle, as well as travelling coast-to-coast in the USA, across Germany’s 16 states and recording more than 2,000 people in China.
“With national languages such as English, French, and German, we are seeing an overall reduction in accent diversity,” said Dominic Watt, senior lecturer in the Department of Language & Linguistic Science at the University of York.
“In many regions, however, people are very proud of their accents. Given the high value that many consumers continue to attach to their local speech patterns, it’s encouraging to see voice-activated technology that embraces accent diversity rather than seeking to dilute it.”
After the ignition is switched off the SYNC system saves a file to memory, but should another driver use the vehicle the system will update the file to recognise their voice.
“By recognising different accents SYNC enables users to quickly become confident in accessing a wide range of content and features, and ultimately to get more out of their car experience,” said Fatima Vital, director of marketing automotive and consumer electronics at Nuance Communications.