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GM boosts stake in voice Net industry

General Motors is expanding into the voice-controlled Internet business, striking a development and equity deal with voice software company Nuance.

General Motors is expanding into the voice-controlled Internet business, striking a development and equity deal with voice software company Nuance, the companies announced Wednesday.

The auto giant, through its OnStar division, has staked its high-tech future on the idea that drivers should be able tap Internet information using voice recognition technology. Talking to a wireless Net connection that in turn talks back to the driver is the best way to eliminate potentially fatal distractions of screens and buttons, the company said.

As part of the deal with Nuance, which produces software that underlies much of the voice portal and voice recognition business, GM will take an unspecified number of warrants for Nuance stock. Nuance said this would not give the car giant a chance at a "significant" ownership percentage.

GM already has a stake in General Magic, a company that produces voice applications that use Nuance technology. General Magic has produced much of the voice services behind the car company's OnStar feature.

"What this does is establish a direct relationship with Nuance so we can work with their engineers and development team," said Todd Carstensen, an OnStar spokesman. "It will give us access to more advanced technology as it becomes available."

GM's "Virtual Advisor" service, which uses the voice recognition technology to let drivers browse news headlines, stock quotes, and other simple information, is being added to cars on the market in some Northeast U.S. regions now. The service will spread across the rest of the country later this year, Carstensen said.