XM to Bring Voice Search to Satellite Radio

Interested in a technology that could let you request a radio station in your car without having to fiddle with the receiver?

XM Satellite Radio believes its auto-driving customers will be. The top pay-radio provider said today that it has teamed with VoiceBox Technologies to create a voice-enabled XM radio platform for the automotive industry.

Through the multi-year partnership, the companies will develop a reference platform that will allow drivers to use their voices to search through XM’s 160 channels of music, sports and news. It’s hands-free, channel-changing software.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but XM and Voicebox said in a statement they expect to deliver the technology to automakers and the market in mid-2006.

In the meantime, VoiceBox and XM will showcase their offering at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week. The demonstration will be part of the new XM Advanced Services vehicle, a specially equipped 2006 Lexus LX 470.

The technology makes sense. XM has so many channels to choose from, it’s conceivable that drivers could spend more time channel surfing than they would on terrestrial radio.

Surfing the myriad stations via hand could also prove potentially distracting to drivers at a time when state laws are cracking down on drivers for using cell phones, or other devices that could occupy their attention and lead to motor vehicle accidents.

The software at the heart of the companies’ joint telematics offering is VoiceBox’s Navigator Platform, which allows users to navigate freely among XM’s various menus of digital content from any mobile device and from any IP network.

The platform runs on various embedded, desktop and server systems for applications such as music and media, navigation and driving directions, directory and hands-free dialing and control over digital devices.

Seattle’s VoiceBox, which a company spokesperson said has been in stealth mode until recently, claims it has created a distinct technology in a telematics market that includes speech and voice-activation technologies from IBM and Microsoft.

Unlike similar software from high-tech giants, VoiceBox’s speech recognition algorithms are designed to determine the context and intent from conversational speech, enabling consumers to speak in free-form language.

XM has 5 million paid subscribers and hopes the alliance will help boost that number as it clashes with Sirius.

The No. 2 pay-radio provider, Sirius just topped 3 million users and could have more by the time shock jock Howard Stern debuts on channel 100 January 9.

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