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BMW Introduces an AI-Powered Voice Controlled ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant'

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【Summary】BMW announced a new ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’ (IPA) that will be available in models starting in March 2019. The system offers a way for drivers to interact with their BMW like never before—using their voice.

Eric Walz    Sep 06, 2018 12:30 PM PT
BMW Introduces an AI-Powered Voice Controlled ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant'
author: Eric Walz   

Now that Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple's Siri have gotten people used to using voice commands instead of a keyboard to look up information, it was just a matter of time before an automaker would come up with an advanced voice activated assistant tailored to its model lineup.

BMW announced a new ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant' (IPA) that will be available in models starting in March 2019. The system offers a way for drivers to interact with their BMW like never before—using their voice. To activate the IPA inside the car, a driver can simply say "Hey BMW" to the assistant and it will respond, allowing them to operate the car's features and controls using voice commands.

"BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant teams up with the new BMW Operating System 7.0 to create a brand new, digital form of interaction with the customer's BMW that redefines the whole driving experience," said Dieter May, Senior Vice President Digital Products BMW Group.

BMW's IPA will also be able to assist the driver outside the vehicle, compatible with other digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, providing a link to other rapidly growing ecosystems of home devices. Using their smartphone or a home device such as Amazon's Alexa, a driver can ask the IPA "What is the fuel level?", before heading out the door.

The assistant learns routines and habits of driver's over time, and is subsequently able to apply them in the appropriate context. For example The IPA learns what temperature they normally set their climate control to, then makes the adjustment automatically. The system integrates with the BMW's GPS, so a driver can say "take me home" and the car will load the route automatically.

Some people like to name their cars, so instead of "Hey BMW" drivers can give the IPA a personalized name. For example, "Hey Charlie" allows a driver to add some personality and fun.

The Intelligent Personal Assistant is always on standby, listening for the driver's every command. The assistant can even provide some entertaining casual conversation on a long trip such as, "Hey BMW, what's the meaning of life?".

The system uses natural language processing (NLP) so a driver can say "Hey BMW, I'm cold" and the assistant will adjust the temperature inside the cabin to keep you comfortable. The assistant is familiar with the vehicle's functions and is able to operate them as required.

The range of functions and skills available will be constantly expanded as part of regular OTA vehicle software updates, which can be done easily on a smartphone and in-car by BMW's Remote Software Upgrade.

The assistant will get constant technical upgrades and be able to get better over time using artificial intelligence, allowing the IPA to adjust and learn more personal preferences. Every question asked and every setting the driver makes, creating a digital customer profile – the BMW ID. This profile links the car to the customer and their digital world.

A driver can even activate a combination of events. For example, speaking the phrase "Hey BMW, I feel tired" can trigger a series of commands that adjusts the lighting mood, music and temperature, among other things, in order to make the driver feel more awake. In future, the assistant will also be able to give fuel-saving driving tips or think ahead and warn drivers as necessary.

The IPA can also act as a service technician, always on standby to help with any maintenance items or instructions for any of the vehicle's controls. A driver can ask the assistant to provide current status information such as "Is the tire pressure OK?"

The IPA could alert the driver if it detects any problems. For example, "The oil level is is low". The system can also remind the driver to schedule a service appointment for any scheduled maintenance.

For busy executives, the system can transform the vehicle into a mobile office, with the ability to integrate with Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business, which allows it to join teleconferences at the driver's request and read aloud emails.

The IPA can control the car's audio system as well, including being able to instantly identify the song currently playing on the radio or search stations for the desired type of music. A driver might ask it to "Play some jazz music please", and it can find a local jazz radio station and tune to it.

When the IPA rolls out next year, BMW says it will be available in 23 languages.

The personal assistant will be available to order for the new BMW 3 Series from November 2018 and will be included for three years.

From March 2019, new BMW X5, Z4 and 8 Series models fitted with the BMW Operating System 7.0 will be able to install the full version of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant by Remote Software Upgrade without having to visit a dealer.

It is likely other automakers will eventually come out with their own assistants, as AI and voice activated technology becomes a common feature in automobiles and the rest of our daily lives. In addition, BMW's voice acitvated assistant also keeps a driver's eyes on the road for some added safety.

I wonder how many BMW driver will name their Intelligent Personal Assistant ‘Hal'.

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