When General Motors speech recognition engineer Robert Sims worked to develop one of the industry’s first in-car hands-free calling systems years ago, his goal was to make the call quality clear enough that his wife wouldn’t hang up on him.
Today, Buick’s IntelliLink system can do far more than place a call, and QuietTuning technologies like those in the LaCrosse luxury sedan make using voice controls easier for owners regardless of marital or relationship status.
QuietTuning is Buick’s comprehensive engineering process to reduce, block and absorb interior noise. For LaCrosse, that means features like laminated window glass, triple door seals and liquid applied sound deadening.
“There’s definitely an advantage when we’re developing voice controls in a quieter cabin,” said Sims. “The system’s ability to hear a command relies on SNR, or signal-to-noise ratio. If noise is extremely low like it is in the LaCrosse, the user’s voice, or signal, can be lower. In other words, a LaCrosse driver can easily speak to the IntelliLink system at a normal, conversational volume.”
As someone who drives an 80-mile commute each day, quietness and minimizing distractions are a personal matter for Sims. That’s helped drive him to make Buick’s IntelliLink voice commands simple, intuitive and designed around the controls drivers need most.
With IntelliLink – standard on every 2013 Buick – drivers can use voice commands to control navigation and audio functions with the push of a button while keeping eyes on the road. With a smartphone paired, IntelliLink’s voice commands can even tune to a Pandora internet radio station or “like” a song.
How does it work? Using a microphone in the cabin’s headliner – optimally placed by Sims and his team – the system uses a speech engine to match spoken words to known voice commands. When the engine finds a match, that command is executed.
“We’ve also designed the system with speaker adaptation, which means the engine is trained for different accents or dialects,” said Sims. “It can begin to predict speech patterns based on those models. Your LaCrosse remembers your speech patterns even after the car is turned off and on, but it can also identify another user and predict his or her patterns as well.”
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