A new interface for XBox 360 game console users allows you to use your voice to navigate through the games, TV shows, movies and music.
Steve Ballmer showed off this technology back in September, but starting this Tuesday, this becomes reality. It adds not only remote gesture control, but also remote voice commands. Therefore, if you don’t have a Kinect motion controller, you still can control without a remote.
The Associated Press got a special demonstration of the new features. When the Microsoft employee said “XBox Bing ‘Iron Man’,” a search for Iron Man came up. When the employee said “XBox, show movies,” a list of movies from various sources appeared.
With over 57 million XBox units sold, Microsoft is expecting to make a real impact in the cord cutters market. Adding pay channel partners like Verizon FIOS means that XBox will get into the Over the top TV market with a vengeance. You will have to use over-the-air or alternate cable methods to get network TV like NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.
The real question is how this will affect your household. Will you cut your cord over this update? Will you start to use the XBox as more than a gaming system?
This last week has been a pretty good one for me, for I got to review more than just a computer, printer or network. I got to review a car. Well, mostly the computer in the car, but still a very tricked out Ford Taurus SHO. A $37,000 vehicle with the Microsoft SYNC system inside.
Ford delivered the Taurus last week to my home. Blue-Grey in color, it didn’t look like the Taurus of years past. I used to drive one for work from time-to-time. That is when the car pool had one available.
However, this one was fully loaded. It had everything from the aluminum wheels to the SHO branded floor mats. It really made me feel like I was on top of my game when driving it. Not that I don’t like the current car I have – But when the time comes, I wouldn’t mind swapping for that one. As long as I can put a full drum set into it.
So let’s take a look at the car, the geeky stuff and other items inside:
We’ll start out with the car itself. This is the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO with 3.5 Liter EcoBoost V6 engine. EcoBoost Technology combines turbocharging and direct injection. It basically works like a V8, but with fewer emissions. The 365 horsepower engine can get 17 city/25 highway using All-Wheel Drive (AWD).
The wheel stock was 19″ premium painted luster nickel-aluminum. The SHO uses the intelligent Access technology with Push-Button Start. All you need is the FAB close by and you will not only be able to get in your car, but also start it without taking anything out of your pocket.
The Geeky Stuff:
Inside the car was where I was focused on. It contained the Microsoft SYNC system – A navigation software package, personal media player and full Satellite / AM /FM radio. The voice recognition was from Nuance – makers of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. Connection was through audio jack, USB or Blutooth.
The voice navigation system was fairly straightforward to understand. If you have used a Tom-Tom or Garmin system, then the SYNC navigation will be second-hand. I entered in a couple destinations and the voice guided me to where I needed to go. There were a couple times it was unsure, so it said “Incomplete data, proceed with caution”. That way, I didn’t trust the system to the point where I would drive it off a cliff.
The voice navigation was also very competent on what it was saying. “Turn left onto Ambercrombe – Turn right onto McKenna..” and so forth. I think there was only one time I noticed the voice sound digital in my travels.
You can put in new destinations, or pre-program common ones. Just in case you forget where the store is, or if this is a company car – you can pre-program the destinations so new drivers can find the route without asking for directions.
The Climate Control:
What can I say about this? April is a Hot – then Cold kinda month. One minute you have all the windows rolled down, then the next the heat is blasted at 90 degrees. To be able to have all that at your fingertips is pretty important. I do have to say, though – The actual button configuration toward the bottom was more confusing than on the SYNC system. Especially when I wanted to turn the blower up and down.
The Sound System:
This is by far the best sound experience I have had in a car. The 12 speakers by Sony pushing out 390 Watts brought clarity to anything I played. Podcasts and music was both enjoyable to listen to, and easy. With the Bluetooth built in, I didn’t need to connect my iPhone to a cable – although I had an option through the USB port. The 10 GB of Hard Drive storage could allow me to put my CD’s into memory.
I was a little flustered that it wouldn’t let me upload MP3 CD’s into the car. I could play the MP3 CD through the system, though. Once I had the jukebox running, I could go through the songs as easily as if they were on my computer.
Since the system has Hands-Free options, I was able to answer phone calls with my cell in the pocket. It stored all my contact info so I could just push the button and go. The Stereo would duck under the phone voice, the backup sensors or the Navigation voice if needed. It made for a comforting experience where I didn’t have to juggle for phones or cables.
I was playing with the interior lighting all week. There were 2 buttons on the dash – One that dimmed a series of LED lights inside the car (by the door handles, in the compartments) and another that changed the color of the LED lights. I could choose the light based on my mood, but I mostly stuck with my favorite color: Green.
What is missing?
When we talked with Ford at CES, I thought there was going to be a special uplink option for music and podcasts. I was expecting to let the car talk with a wireless system to download media. That wasn’t the case. Sure, I could have used a Bluetooth connection from the house, but it would have been nice to be able to connect to the media server and get the music and podcasts that way. This was the only thing I wished it would have.
The car specs said I had a Rear View Camera. Either I missed it or this model didn’t have one. If it did, then I am surprised it wasn’t an intuitive system.
I enjoyed the ride for the week. I got to take a couple longer trips and felt comfortable the whole time. I had a few friends ride along and they really enjoyed the handling. The only thing they mentioned on the car was the design of the dashboard felt a little enclosing. It was an akward looking dashboard, but there was one big Sony speaker in the middle.
I was really happy to drive this car around for the week. I would like to thank Ford for their generosity in letting me review the system. The SYNC system is absolutely a fabulous idea and with some extras can be a very useful and very fun addition to your drive.