CES 2008: Pioneer takes on SYNC with LINC

Pioneer says its newest GPS unit, the memorably-named AVIC-F500BT (fondly called the AVIC LINC by its creators), "changes the face of navigation."

Foremost, it's an in-dash GPS device bringing everything you expect from a high-end direction-finder. In addition to those standard features, the AVIC-F500BT brags of 1.2 million points of interest, has an SD slot for updating your system's navigational information and uses MSN traffic, weather and gas price information.

LINC is an acronym for Lifestyle Innovation Network Console, and it's what makes the F500BT more interesting than most GPS boxes. Using Pioneer's "VoiceBox Conversational Voice Search Platform," basically an advanced voice recognition system, you can totally control your iPod or other MP3 players as well as your Bluetooth-connected phone.

Much like Ford's SYNC, Pioneer's LINC lets you ask your system for a song or your phone to dial a number.

Unlike Ford's SYNC, LINC is compatible with most OEM systems and aftermarket head units according to Pioneer.

There wasn't a chance to try out the system at Pioneer's Sunday morning press conference, but we hope to get our hands on one later in the week. At the press conference, Pioneer reiterated its objective to be a top-end automotive aftermarket supplier. Larry Rougas, Pioneer mobile business group's VP of marketing, said, "We are car people. We are all about pulse rates, not bit rates."

Check out high-res photos here, and read the entire press release after the jump.

Pioneer AVIC-F500BT Combines Power of In-Dash Navigation with
the Convenience of a Portable Device

LAS VEGAS - CES 2008 – (January 6, 2008) – Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. today marked another milestone in navigation history with the launch of its AVIC-F500BT, the first hybrid navigation system that brings the power of an in-dash device with the convenience of a portable system. Designed to integrate with virtually any factory audio system, the AVIC-F500BT provides the opportunity for consumers to add unparalleled navigation features and extended entertainment capabilities without modifying existing car stereos. Furthermore, the AVIC-F500BT will offer advanced voice technology for control of Apple iPod® music players and Bluetooth® enabled cellular phones.

"The AVIC-F500BT gives consumers the opportunity to merge their lifestyle products and habits into their cars, regardless of the type of vehicle they drive," said Larry Rougas, vice president of marketing and product planning for the mobile business group at Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. "It aggregates compatible portable personal devices -- whether it's an iPod, an MP3 player or Bluetooth cell phone and links them all together without having to completely change out the car's entire factory audio system. And with VoiceBox technology, which goes beyond fixed voice commands, the use of these devices in the car is more convenient."

Media Center
The AVIC-F500BT can operate as both a navigation device and as a media center for entertainment. Through an auxiliary audio input in a factory audio system or using the available Pioneer installation module, the system becomes an aggregator and "gateway" for personal audio and communication devices. Built-in speakers and a rechargeable battery are also provided for use of the system while on the go.

The AVIC-F500BT significantly enhances the audio experience in the car with its ability to accept portable devices with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection and/or music-filled SD memory cards. A slot for both are available in the body of the unit which allows for quick connections of compatible MP3 or iPod music players as well as SD memory cards containing MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA) music data. When a device is plugged in, the AVIC-F500BT recognizes it as a source and controls it through its touch panel display and/or by voice control.

Freedom of Speech
The AVIC-F500BT is the first aftermarket product in the industry to include the VoiceBox Conversational Voice Search PlatformTM, which allows users to control their Apple iPod players and Bluetooth enabled cell phones by voice. VoiceBox's uniqueness lies in three areas: "conversational commands," "intent recognition," and the ability to handle noisy situations such as ambient vehicle noise and passenger conversations.

The system accepts different elements of spoken commands. The conversational element is its ability to analyze normal and varying phrases such as "I want to hear the artist U2" or "play U2" and the unit's capability to play back songs by the specified artist. Additional variables for iPod playback include artist name, album name, playlist name and music genre. Another element of "conversational" is in situations where the user "stumbles" while saying their command such as, "Play, um, um let's see the album Joshua Tree." The unit has the capacity to recognize the command from the phrase, eliminating the extra words so that it can perform the desired function.

Intent recognition comes to life with hands-free applications. In most applications of voice recognition, consumers must use fixed and specific commands such as "Call Sandy Jones home" or "Call Sandy Jones mobile." With intent recognition, a user can simply say, "Call Sandy Jones" and the unit will prompt the user for additional information by responding, "I have 2 numbers for Sandy Jones. Home and Mobile. Which would you like to call?"

As powerful as an in-dash navigation system, the AVIC-F500BT is complete with mapping data from Tele Atlas for the entire United States, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii. The 5.8-inch high-resolution WVGA screen shows mapping details with two view modes: overhead and moveable 3D. When a destination is input via touch screen, easy to follow step-by-step route guidance is displayed, followed by helpful audio prompts through the speakers in the car. The system also employs a Text-to-Speech
( TTS) engine to further enhance its assistance capabilities by pronouncing street names. For example, the unit instructs the driver ahead by announcing the command and name of the street, i.e., "turn right on Remington Street," instead of simply prompting, "turn right ahead."

The system also includes a massive database for points of interest (POI), helping users quickly find popular destinations such as gas stations, ATMs, hotels and restaurants that can be searched either near a current location, or close to a specified destination. Categories of POIs can be overlaid onto the map for quick identification further enhancing the navigation experience.

A unique feature of the system is the ability for users to update and add POI information via the SD card slot. Using the AVIC-F500BT PC Application from Pioneer, users can create and store new points of interests onto an SD memory card which the system can reference. This is especially helpful when users want to add their personalized POIs or load available information from the Internet.

Built-in Technology
The AVIC-F500BT comes equipped with two additional key technologies: built-in Bluetooth for hands free calling, and MSN Direct services for traffic and data services. With Bluetooth becoming the standard in the cell phone industry, the AVIC-F500BT allows consumers to connect compatible cell phones to the device and utilize the vehicle (and/or built-in) speakers and the provided microphone to make and receive calls. When a call is received, the system automatically mutes audio and displays caller information on its large LCD touch panel display.

For further convenience in navigation, traffic information provided by MSN Direct is available with a paid subscription. The AVIC-F500BT displays traffic information, weather forecasts, gas prices and movie times for up to 100 cities across the United States and Canada. At a glance, users can see updated road conditions on their local freeways. The first three months of the MSN Direct service are offered for free with the purchase of the AVIC-F500BT system.

The AVIC-F500BT resides in a 7" X 4" X .75" chassis and utilizes a large high resolution WVGA 5.8-inch touch panel display. The large screen generates an easy to view map while its enhanced graphic user interface (GUI) makes it effortless for users to control and manage the system.

Furthermore, for safety and convenience, the AVIC-F500BT is equipped with a camera input and back-up trigger. The system automatically displays images from a separately-purchased camera, when the vehicle is shifted into reverse. This feature is extremely useful when used in large automobiles, such as SUVs, where it can be more difficult to see what is behind the vehicle.

The AVIC-F500BT will be available in Spring 2008.

Pioneer's Mobile Entertainment Division is known for offering the kind of in-car products that make driving more enjoyable by offering high quality audio and video, advanced connectivity and ease-of-use. Its focus is on the development of new digital technologies including audio video, navigation and satellite radio, while maintaining its strong heritage in products for car audio enthusiasts and sound competitors. The company markets its products under the Pioneer and Premier brand names. When purchased from an authorized dealer, consumers receive a limited warranty for one year with Pioneer products and two years for Premier electronic products.

Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., and its U.S. Web address is www.pioneerelectronics.com. Its parent company, Pioneer Corporation, is a leader in optical disc technology and a preeminent manufacturer of high-performance audio, video and computer equipment for the home, car and business markets. The company focuses on four core business domains including Blu-ray Disc and DVD, display technologies, navigation and Digital Network

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