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Issues with Sync and myFord Touch cost Ford dearly  (Source: Ford)
Ford wants Sync to eventually understand natural spoken commands and the intent of the user

Ford has found out the hard way over the recent months that one poorly received system in a car can create a massive backlash when it comes to consumer feedback in the important J.D. Power rankings for initial quality. Ford was sitting high in the fifth position last year. Fifth spot was the highest ranking for any non-luxury carmaker. This year Ford dropped like a rock to 23rd place.

J.D. Power says the blame lies partly with the new MyFord Touch system that attempted to take Sync one step further. The problem is that Sync originally had about 100 commands that it recognized and the driver could use. The new MyFord Touch system recognizes about 10,000 commands.

Ford and Nuance partnered for the voice recognition technology in Sync and the companies are working together to make the Sync and MyFord Touch system much easier to use by allowing it to recognize naturally spoken questions and the intent of the user.

This will let the driver ask a question to Sync any way they want and the system will do the legwork of turning the spoken query into a command that the system can execute. The goal is to get the system to the point where the driver can ask "Did the Tigers win last night" and the Sync system will understand the driver wants the score for the game and speak it back.

Ford lead voice control engineer Brigitte Richardson said, "It will recognize what you want or decipher the intent of what you want." She also said, "It will help people who can't determine the right command to use. It coaches you to get the information you need."

Ford has been working on this revamped version of Sync for over a year, however, the company points out that the system isn't ready for commercial use just yet.

Ford is also working on a side project looking at bringing voice-controlled fun to your drive. The project is called “Sync my Brain” and is a trivia game that uses voice commands. The game asks a question and offers multiple-choice answers to choose from. Ford's Nello Santori said, "It [Sync my Brain] is purely a research project. There is no production intent. We are looking at whether there is a place for something like this as we work to improve voice recognition."

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Commands are not the problem
By tng on 7/22/2011 9:52:58 AM , Rating: 2
It is the system recognizing the voice that is the problem.

I have driven several of these cars that have had voice recognition and found that the commands are recognized just fine, but it can't tell the difference between two people on my call list that have similar names, or just will dial wildly at the drop of a hat from something that it thought I said. One day in the car back from a meeting I told my passenger that I would "Call him later with information..." and the car dialed.

It is going to take a long time for them to get past peoples bad pronunciation and speech patterns.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By brshoemak on 7/22/2011 10:32:02 AM , Rating: 3
but it can't tell the difference between two people on my call list that have similar names

What they need is a name command that is fairly unique so the car can tell you are addressing it instead of a passenger with a more common name. An good example would be:

KITT, fire the turbo boost! Er, I mean call my wife.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By Mitch101 on 7/24/2011 11:55:44 AM , Rating: 2
The problem seems to be Ford added Nuance into the picture. I don't have any of these issues with my Sync and I just checked im on version 3.1. Its like the X-Box with Kinect I don't have any issues with voice commands on that either so I have to believe its Nuance.

The only issue I have run into is when it doesn't see one of my two Bluetooth enabled phones (Work and Personal) After a few mins the phone recognizes the Bluetooth device and its fine but when I first get into the car sometimes I couldn't call numbers on the one phone which was set as my primary. Was never an issue when I have only one phone programmed into sync but with both it became and issue. I want both in there because of the hands free built into the car. So I just programmed both phones with all the numbers. Problem solved.

I don't think sync needs 1000 commands either. I still haven't used all the features. of my existing system. The only thing I can possibly think of needing more of is more voice command text message replies but I just call them if necessary.

By Capt Caveman on 7/22/2011 10:37:07 AM , Rating: 2
Agree. No mention in the article on when Ford plans to correct all of the bugs in the software forcing people to pullover to reboot their system to just use the radio, climate control, etc...

RE: Commands are not the problem
By Aikouka on 7/22/2011 11:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
Was the voice recognition always active? On my car, I have to push a button for it to start accepting voice commands. However, it's mostly useless since it never recognizes what I say, and there isn't even a voice command to leave the menu! I think when I said "cancel" it asked me whom I wanted to call.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By tng on 7/22/2011 11:55:04 AM , Rating: 2
It was active because I did push the button and try to call someone and it would not accept it. However when I looked at my passenger and said I would "call him later"(not from the car, because that was seemingly not working).... it got that and dialed almost randomly.

You are correct there is no way to leave the menu. We did try and then gave up.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By Mitch101 on 7/25/2011 10:55:09 AM , Rating: 2
Right click on the voice command button takes you back to the device you were at before or selecting any other device like the radio will do it. I believe there is an exit command but the keys are on my steering wheel.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By tng on 7/26/2011 11:00:17 AM , Rating: 2
Rental, only had it for a week. Good for checking out new cars, but not so good for learning all of the details.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By Solandri on 7/22/2011 12:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
but it can't tell the difference between two people on my call list that have similar names,

A good AI would recognize the similarity, present you with both options, and ask which one is the right one. Then it would learn from that to better associate what you said with the choice you made.

RE: Commands are not the problem
By Natch on 7/23/2011 11:00:20 AM , Rating: 2
Not only that, but it's also the problem that the more words a system has "learned" to recognize, the easier it is to confuse one with another. Similar to trying to teach English as a second language, and explain the difference between there, their and they're.

My Garmin GPS has voice recognition, and a couple times, in order to get it to understand me, I have had to resort to the old tried and true method of 'speak slower and eee-nun-cee-ate' the word it's having problems with recognizing. Usually works, but it's annoying to have to do that (and it's not as though I have a thick accent either).

Now imagine what a headache it is, to try to find a way to recognize different dialects and accents! Once you figure out one of them, you've only got a dozen more to master!!

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