Mercedes-Benz is making its cars smarter.
The automaker has teamed with SoundHound to integrate its Houndify voice-enabled artificial intelligence into the car’s latest infotainment system.
The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system, which will enable customized voice control with natural language understanding, will be available in Mercedes A-Class vehicles in North America.
The hybrid voice control uses onboard software to control vehicle operations, such as lighting, and understands speech so it can respond to a driver’s request.
The SoundHound technology is lightning-fast, based on my experience of having used it for quite a long time. It also is good at actually understanding what was said, even if in a relatively complex sentence, which is not the case with all voice agents.
The A-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz model to feature the new MBUX interface. All aspects of the interface, including the voice control, can learn and adapt to the individual user and the software models on the server learn new buzzwords and adapt to language changes over time.
Mercedes has somewhat of a vested interest here. Earlier this year, Daimler AG, along with Hyundai Motor Company and others, invested $100 million in SoundHound. The investment was targeted to drive adoption and distribution of the Houndify voice AI platform across industries, including automotive and consumer products.
The AI voice agent of SoundHound is in other areas outside of automotive. For example, it was added to smart mirrors being used by companies like Sephora, L’Oréal and Coty, all of which use augmented reality technology from ModiFace, which I wrote about here at the time (Voice-Enabled AI Added To Magic Mirror). L’Oréal acquired ModiFace earlier this year.
“Our mission is two words: Houndify everything,” Keyvan Mohajer, co-founder and CEO of SoundHound Inc., told me. “We imagine a world where everything is voice-enabled. As brands across all industries increasingly look to add a conversational voice interface to their products and experiences, soon everything from your home appliances and favorite apps, to your first home robot and next immersive shopping experience will be powered by Houndify.”
Various Mercedes features already were available through Amazon Alexa and Google Home. But now drivers can have conversations directly with a virtual agent that lives in the car.