When a bunch of Silicon Valley venture capitalists threw down a bounty of $5 million last month for a device that would enable drivers to check e-mail while on the road, we must admit we were a bit skeptical. Oh, we of little faith.
A product showing at SEMA 2006 from Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS) is proving that the age of in-car e-mail is already upon us. Dubbed iLane, the device uses Bluetooth connectivity and text-to-voice technology to read out incoming e-mails received by a driver's PDA or smart phone. Drivers are notified of an incoming message by a chime, after which the system proceeds to read out the text of the message in a comprehensible robotic voice via the car's speakers. Drivers can then dictate a response, which is recorded and sent as an MP3 file to the sender's computer. There also are 10 preset responses drivers can select by voice command, which are e-mailed as text responses.
All functions are performed by voice command, in keeping with iLane's promise of "hands-free and eyes-free e-mail for your vehicle." The device also doubles as a hands-free interface, enabling drivers to dial phone numbers using voice commands. To use iLane, you'll need a Bluetooth-enabled, e-mail-capable mobile device and either a Bluetooth headset or a Bluetooth-enabled stereo (such the KDCX890). iLane is set to go on sale next March and will cost "under $1,000," according to IMS.
(Photo: Kevin Massy/CNET Networks)