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Hands on with Kia's new voice command

CNET Car Tech takes a look at Kia's new voice command feature.

Kia UVO screen
Kia's UVO is a voice command system for MP3 players and Bluetooth phones. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Kia takes a page out of Ford's playbook by partnering with Microsoft to include advanced voice command systems in its cars. Kia calls its Microsoft-powered system UVO and, similar to Ford's Sync, it lets you connect Bluetooth phones and MP3 players, and use voice command to control them.

We got a demo of the system at CES in a new Kia Sorrento, the first model that will feature it.

UVO uses Microsoft's voice recognition technology, and the system understands commands in a variety of contexts. During our demonstration, we told it to "Play Sirius channel 184," and it quickly found that satellite radio station. A Kia representative told us we could also use the name of the station.

While the satellite station was playing, we told it "Call Chris," and it asked if we wanted the mobile or work number. When we made the command, UVO looked through the Bluetooth paired phone's contact list, found the name Chris, and noted there were multiple numbers saved in the contact. We could also have said "Call Chris mobile," and it would have immediately dialed the associated mobile phone number.

UVO includes a USB port that works with iPods, any MP3 player certified under Microsoft's PlaysForSure specification, including the Zune, and USB thumb drives. There is also 1GB of internal memory to which you can copy MP3 tracks from CDs or thumb drives.

UVO will be an option in the 2011 Sorrento, launching later this year, and other Kia models in the future. Kia has not announced pricing.