Remember Fiat Blue&Me -- the Windows-powered entertainment system for your car? Well Kia's been busy working with Microsoft to produce a similar system, known as 'UVO', which apparently stands for 'your voice'.
Like Blue&Me, it's based on the Microsoft Auto software platform. Unlike its rival, however, UVO incorporates full Microsoft speech-engine technology, so users can control almost all of its features -- access music, control the radio, make and answer phone calls, and dictate and hear text messages -- with their voice.
We had the chance to play with UVO in a 2011 Kia Sorento, and the system's performance was impressive, if a little unreliable. It understood perfectly when we asked it to tune the radio to a specific frequency or preset, it read aloud incoming text messages with aplomb, and it even obliged when we asked for a specific song that we'd ripped from a CD to its built-in 1GB hard drive (a USB port is present for storage upgrades). It occasionally failed, however, to understand even basic menu-navigation requests, which led us to abandon our efforts with the text-dictation feature. Basically, it works, but it can be frustrating and isn't the sort of thing you want in your car if you suffer from road rage.
Despite our disappointing initial experience, we'll give UVO the benefit of the doubt until we get some private face-time with it. It is, in theory, a very good system, and we suspect a loud show floor at CES 2010 wasn't the best place for Kia to demonstrate voice-command features.
UVO will debut this summer in the 2011 Kia Sorento. Watch out for a hands-on demo in our Car Tech section soon, and click 'Continue' for some more photos of UVO.
Thankfully, the UVO system is more pleasant to look at. Press the voice-command button on the steering wheel and you can tell it what track you want to play, or, if one's already playing, ask it to tell you the exact track name.