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ZTE, Nuance hit the road with eyes-free, hands-free biometric voice command

With Nuance's voice print technology onboard, ZTE's Car Mode app will be able to recognize who is speaking and what he or she wants without the driver lifting a finger.

ZTE Handset

Phone manufacturer ZTE and Nuance Communications, provider of a wide range of voice recognition software, are teaming up at CES 2014 to announce an updated and enhanced Car Mode application for ZTE's Android devices.

The ZTE Car Mode app will provide an eye-free, hands-free way to interact with these phones on the go. Nuance is providing new voice biometrics tech for the screen unlock, enabling the hardware to recognize a voice command from a specific person's voiceprint to activate and access different functions and modes without physical contact.

For example, as part of a new feature called Music Barge-In, a driver listening to music could say, "Play next song," or "Pause," and the ZTE Android device would recognize that it is, in fact, the driver talking and then execute the command.

I get very annoyed when passengers won't stop talking while I'm issuing a voice command to a smartphone or navigation system; it confuses most simple systems. If Nuance's voice print and biometrics technology can help these devices to differentiate my commands from those of my mouthy passengers, it will be a welcome addition to the cockpit.

Additionally, Nuance's Natural Language Understanding (NLU) tech makes an appearance, allowing the driver to speak to the system with natural questions and commands, rather than memorizing and following a list of expected prompts. You could ask the phone, "Where is Union Square?" or say, "Take me to the post office" and the Car Mode app will search for the nearest matching destination and provide spoken directions from Google Maps.

Many smartphone owners are already used to the idea of talking to their phones as they would a human being thanks to the rapid evolution of voice search services like Google Now and Siri (video). Nuance and ZTE's partnership should take this concept a step further by removing the need to touch or look at the phone when behind the wheel.

ZTE has already implemented some of Nuance's technologies in the Car Mode app available on its current Android devices. When we should expect that app to be updated with the new voice biometrics technology and Music Barge-In has not been announced.