Microsoft Turns Your Car Into a Mobile Device

A great deal has already been written about the work Microsoft is doing with Ford to make the car itself a more powerful mobile device. I just came across an interesting video that shows some of these features in action.

Ford’s head of Information Systems, Gary Jablonski, walks through some of the features of the Sync product, built into some Ford models. It lets users listen to music and send and receive calls and texts while driving. Lots more mobile local search features can be envisioned, based on these.

Sync’s top-line selling point (as its name implies) is to sync your car with your mobile device to create a better interface for driving. The only physical sign of the technology in the car is a USB port where music players can be plugged in.

Otherwise, communication between the device and the car are done via Bluetooth and the car’s own digital displays and voice prompt become the new interface to your phone. So incoming calls are shown on the dashboard display and prompted by a combination of voice commands and steering wheel controls.

Text messages are likewise channeled through this system where they can be commanded to be read out loud by the digital voice prompt. This comes complete with audible pronunciations of popular shorthand acronyms and emoticons like “I’m laughing out loud” and “happy smiley.”

“We quickly realized if we are going to read text messages, we have to be able to deal with text message shorthand,” says Jablonski.

Users can reply to texts using steering wheel controls to choose any of 15 canned responses, like “yes,” “no,” “running late” or best of all: “call me.” Phone numbers meanwhile sync right up with your device contacts and can be dialed with voice commands for either name or number.

With the exception of the music features to play iPhones, Zunes or plain old USB sticks, Sync focuses mainly on communications. Given the growth of in-car navigation systems, local search will likely be the next thing to sync up.

There are also possibilities of mobile voice search for local business listings through Microsoft’s own Tellme. This has been explored and will be something to keep an eye on. For now, check out the video, which was found on Autobytel’s MyRide YouTube channel.

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