Hyundai made a smart car AI that might actually be useful

Chris Davies - Dec 21, 2017, 4:06 pm CST
Hyundai made a smart car AI that might actually be useful

Talking to car voice recognition systems is typically about as productive as cursing at other drivers, but Hyundai aims to change that with its new Intelligent Personal Agent. The new virtual assistant promises to be Alexa for the dashboard, offering not only control over features but proactive information based on the individual driver. According to Hyundai, it could be included in new cars as soon as 2019.

For now, it’s a prototype that’s housed in a “Personal Agent Cockpit” that Hyundai will be bringing along to CES 2018 in a few weeks time. Co-developed with SoundHound, the system promises functionality far from the usual stilted voice interfaces available on current cars. Indeed, the goal is a more conversational interface, which doesn’t require drivers to remember specific keywords or even break up their requests into separate parts.

On the one hand, the Intelligent Personal Agent will allow pretty much all of the commonly-used features in the car to be controlled by voice. That includes setting the air conditioning, opening and closing the sunroof, and triggering the power locks. As you’d expect, there’s also integration with phone calls, music and destination search, and dictating text messages. It’s part of Hyundai’s efforts to reduce the amount of time drivers are spending looking for buttons or touchscreen UI elements.

The system goes further than that, however. A “Car-to-Home” service allows for remote control over connected home devices – whether those be lights, locks, garage doors, or something else – through a voice command in the vehicle. It wakes up with the “Hi, Hyundai” trigger, at which point you can talk to it as you might the Google Assistant on a Google Home.

As with a Google Home, there’s support for combining multiple instructions into a single phrase. For example, Hyundai suggests, you could say “Hi Hyundai, tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow and turn off the lights in our living room.” The assistant would automatically recognize that included two different tasks, and complete each individually.

However, it goes further than just issuing commands. Hyundai says it has made the assistant proactive, so that it can look at things like upcoming meetings on a schedule, check real-time road traffic reports, and then make suggestions as to when the driver should leave so as to be on time.

Hyundai is using SoundHound’s Houndify AI platform – an extension of the technology the automaker has been using for music recognition for some years now – which has been customized with automotive tasks in mind. It’s a server-based system, so the car will need to be connected in order to recognize instructions. Unclear at this point is what happens if the car is out of a service area, and whether there’ll be a fall-back system with local processing for more basic functionality.

The Intelligent Personal Agent is set to show up on future Hyundai production cars from 2019, the automaker says. However, early next year a more simplified version will be deployed as part of a Korea-only trial of next-gen fuel-cell vehicles. That will have the ability to pull in local sports results among other information.

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