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Nuance Speech Recognition Technology Powers Microsoft SYNC



I had a lot of fun testing out Ford’s Escape Hybrid and their Microsoft SYNC technology. As I expressed in my posts and demoed in my videos, my kids and I had some struggles with the speech recognition aspect, though.

During my evaluation, I was surprised to find out that Nuance ( the company behind Dragon Naturally Speaking) powered the speech recognition engine in Sync. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with them about a few of my challenges, as well as learn about some things they are working on:

  • Sync had some problems recognizing some of the words my kids speaking. This is mostly due to engine being tailored to adults deeper voices. The higher pitched children’s voices typically falls outside their normal acceptance frequency. However, Nuance recognizes the media centric aspects of Sync and are working on making the experience a successful one for kids, too.
  • Street numbers: Nuance recognizes street numbers from 1 to 10,000 and there are 40,000 different variations on how street numbers could be spoken. For example, to get to 123 Main Street, I was telling Sync to go to one hundred twenty three Main St.   Sync / Nuance is most successful at recognizing street numbers when the individual numbers are spoken: one two three Main Street.
  • Nuance is working on a speech recognition for the iPhone called Open Voice Search (OVS). It is currently in the R&D labs. No word on timing at this point.
  • According to Nuance, Sync has been a very successful venture for Ford, Microsoft, and Nuance. Prior to the downturn in the economy, there was a significant jump in car sales due to the Sync application.


  1. Mark (K0LO)

    12/10/2008 at 11:13 am

    Besides the speech recognition issues, SYNC needs to work on the user interface. In watching your ink show I saw that you had to constantly repeat “USB” to select the USB flash drive as a source, followed by the name of the song. Requiring a user to say “USB” over and over again is a stupid interface design.

    In a product with buttons, you would only need to push the “USB” input selection button once. After that the product would assume that any further selections were from the already-selected input. SYNC should work similarly.

  2. Rob Bushway

    12/10/2008 at 11:16 am

    totally agree, Mark. I found it frustrating having to repeat USB

  3. Manny

    12/10/2008 at 11:37 am

    One of the main reasons why I purchased my Ford Taurus 08 last year was because of SYNC. I absolutely love SYNC. It is so easy to make and receive phone calls in a hands-free mode. I also have a USB flash drive hooked to it for music. Once you select “USB”, you DON’T need to keep on selecting “USB” when playing music. That is, if it is on USB mode, it stays there until you turn on the radio or use your phone. In short, I’m one happy customer and I love my Ford because of it.

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