Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Porsche you could talk to

Paul Leroux
I have a confession to make. The day before QNX Software Systems unveiled this technology concept at car at 2012 CES, I leaked the news on the On Q blog. Mind you, the leak was unintentional. I had been editing a post that described the car and, instead of hitting Save, I hit Publish by mistake. Dumb, I know.

I immediately took down the post and informed my colleagues of the error. Fortunately, my RSS feed didn't give me away, and the launch, which had been strictly under wraps, went ahead as planned. But boy, did I feel stupid.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let's see what the hubbub was about. The car, based on a Porsche 911 Carrera, came equipped with an array of features built by the QNX concept team, including one-touch smartphone pairing, high-definition hands-free calls, rear-seat entertainment, and a digital instrument cluster.

So, you ready for a tour?

The car
Let's start with the exterior. Because man, what an exterior:

The instrument cluster
Once you got behind the wheel, the first thing you saw was the instrument cluster. But
this was no ordinary cluster. It could dynamically reconfigure itself — in response to voice commands, no less. It could even communicate with the navigation system to display turn-by-turn directions. And it was designed to honor the look-and-feel of the stock 911 cluster:

The head unit
To your right, you could see the head unit. Here is the unit's main screen, from which you could access all of the system's key functions:

And here's another screen, showing the system's media player:

The front-seat control of backseat infotainment
The Porsche also showcased how a head unit could offer front-seat control of backseat entertainment — perfect for when you need to control what your kids are watching or listening to:

The voice recognition
The Porsche was outfitted with cloud-based voice recognition, which let you enter navigation destinations naturally, without having to use artificial grammars. Check out this Engadget clip, taken at an AT&T event in New York City:

The car also included features that neither words nor pictures can capture adequately. But let me try, anyway:

One-touch Bluetooth pairing — Allowed you to pair a phone to the car simply by touching the phone to an NFC reader embedded in the center console; no complicated menus to wade through.

Text-to-speech integration — Could read aloud incoming emails, text messages, and BBM messages.

High-definition voice technology — Used 48KHz full stereo bandwidth for clear, high-fidelity hands-free calls.

The car also ran a variety of apps, including TCS hybrid navigation, Vlingo voice-to-text, Poynt virtual assistant, Weather Network, and streaming Internet radio from Pandora, Nobex, Slacker, and TuneIn.

The point
The point of this car wasn't simply to be cool, but to demonstrate what's possible in next-gen infotainment systems. More specifically, it was designed to showcase the capabilities of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. In fact, it did such a good job on that count that the platform took home the 2012 CES Best of Show award, in the car tech category:

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