From the Beatles, to Michael Caine, to Tom Jones, accents in the U.K have delighted and confused listeners – as well as providing impersonators with a living.
Voice-activated technology though has sometimes been less forgiving, requiring users to attempt the received pronunciation of “My Fair Lady” to be understood.
Ford SYNC has been developed with Nuance Communications to enable drivers to speak naturally to make calls, play music, and set navigation – using their local accent.
“People rightly consider their accent a key to who they are as a person. Practically ensuring that you can easily communicate with your vehicle, whatever part of the country you are from, helps ensure a more convenient journey,” said Christof Kellerwessel, global chief engineer, Electronic and Electrical Systems Engineering, Ford of Europe.
Ford SYNC systems are supported by a dictionary that includes alternative pronunciations of words, compiled following field recordings of thousands of drivers. In the U.K., researchers recorded drivers of all ages in towns and cities that included London, Liverpool, and Newcastle, asking them to read paragraphs, give common greetings and recite numbers.
“With national languages such as English, French, and German, we are seeing an overall reduction in accent diversity,” said Dominic Watt, senior lecturer, Department of Language & Linguistic Science, University of York. “In many regions, however, people are very proud of their accents. Given the high value that many consumers continue to attach to their local speech patterns, it’s encouraging to see voice-activated technology that embraces accent diversity rather than seeking to dilute it.”
Ford SYNC was first introduced to Europe in 2012 since when it has been extended throughout much of the Ford range.