To send mail, talk to your dash as you drive

BlackBerry 8800 (Cingular VersionImage via Wikipedia

Imagine shooting an email to an office colleague just by giving verbal instructions to a device fitted in your car as you drive to work. Cut to reality. It’s now very much possible, thanks to scientists who have developed the world’s first hands-free and eyes-free email for in-vehicle use only which can talk to you while you drive.

According to them, it’s actually a portable smartphone-compatible device, known as iLane, that alerts its user when a new email is received and reads out the message and draft a reply on voice command. The new gadget, developed by Intelligent Mechatronic Systems, can be mounted on a dashboard, sun visor or air vent, at an initial installation cost of £400 plus a monthly subscription, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It connects wirelessly to BlackBerry smartphones, and users wear a Bluetooth headset to issue voice commands and read, delete or reply to emails. It is powered through the car’s cigarette lighter. In fact, users can choose to send from two stock email responses - “I am in transit and will respond shortly” or say “Call me if it’s important” - or they can record a 15-minute voice memo which the iLane will send as an email attachment to the correspondent.

In addition to handling email messages, the iLane also allows people to make phone calls simply by calling out the name of someone in their address book, and can also read out the latest news and sport headlines, weather forecasts and traffic reports, according to the scientists.

However, the device is only compatible with BlackBerry phones at the moment and is currently available only in the US and Canada but its manufacturers hope to introduce it to other parts of the world soon. The demonstration video at ilane.com is an honest representation of the experience. That video lets you know what Syntho-Lady’s voice sounds like, what her wording is and what kinds of responses you’re supposed to supply. Here is a typical transcript.

She: “You have six new messages. Message from Chris Robinson about ‘The restaurant incident last night.’ Say, ‘Read’ to read this message. You can Reply, Forward, Call Back or Delete. To read the next message, say ‘Next message.’ ”

You: “Read message.”

She: “ ‘Hey, David. Don’t worry about last night. I spoke to the headwaiter, and he said that he managed to get most of the wine stains out of the carpet. He did ask if you’d take your family reunions elsewhere in the future. Regards, Chris.’ Would you like to Reply, Forward, Delete or Read this message again?”

You: “Reply.”

The voice now gives you the option of sending a canned email message back to the sender (either “I am in transit and will respond shortly” or “Call me if it is important”) or recording a 15-second MP3 message that gets sent to your correspondent as an email attachment.


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