LAS VEGAS--Parrot is best known for its Bluetooth hands-free products. But if the AR.Drone is any indicator, this isn't a company that's afraid to come out of left field with a seemingly random product. Enter the Parrot Asteroid, a car audio receiver powered by Android OS. Yep, you read that correctly.
The Asteroid is a single-DIN receiver with a two-part faceplate that is split between a physical control panel that is detachable for security and a large, fixed 3.2-inch LCD. The unit features three USB ports it can use to connect to digital audio sources or the GPS dongle with which it ships. The Asteroid can also be connected to an optional 3G USB dongle, bringing wireless data connectivity to the dashboard. The Asteroid takes advantage of its location-awareness and potential data stream with services such as Parrot Maps (a turn-by-turn navigation app), traffic and construction alerts, and access to Web radio stations. Because the Asteroid is based on Android, Parrot can update the unit with new services and apps as they are developed. However, don't your hopes up about running Angry Birds on your head unit, as it is unlikely that the Asteroid will have Android Market access.
The Asteroid unit offers digital audio playback from mass storage devices connected to any of its three USB ports (two of which will probably be occupied by the aforementioned dongles), iPhones and iPods (how ironic!), SD cards, and over Bluetooth via A2DP. When listening to a supported digital audio source, users can press a button to have the Asteroid read aloud the artist or album of the playing song at the touch of a button--which is pretty neat, if not a bit unnecessary with the screen right there. Analog sources include an auxiliary input and AM/FM radio with RDS text compatibility.
Of course, the Asteroid features Parrot's Bluetooth handsfree calling system with voice control. The voice control is notable in that it is truly hands-free; the driver can initiate outgoing calls or accept and reject incoming calls with only the sound of their voice--no physical manipulation is necessary.
Our initial impressions are that the Asteroid could either be a brilliant leap in car stereo sophistication or simply too complicated for its own good. We'll have to wait until Asteroid hits later this year (at a yet unannounced price) to find out.