Artificial Intelligence (AI) and voice-based assistants are stealing the show at IFA 2018 in Berlin, and one of the innovative products launched at this edition of the show was "Chris", a voice-controlled digital assistant that allows drivers to make phone calls, send messages, listen to music and get navigation guides without ever touching their smartphones.
Developed by Berlin-based start-up German Autolabs, Chris has now been launched for Germany and Britain at IFA -- a leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances -- but it could come to assist drivers in India next year, claimed a company official showcasing the product to visitors at their booth at the innovation centre of the show.
Chris fits into any car, is easy to install, and works even if the Internet goes off, said Daniel Mieves of German Autolabs.
"We will possibly be able to bring Chris to India next year. Mapping works in India, everything else works in India... but we do not yet have a distributor. We are seriously looking for a distributor there as we have a lot of requests from India," Mieves told IANS.
"It's our own voice assistant. The biggest benefit that Chris has over other voice assistants like Alexa is that Alexa needs Internet to work, but in the car, a driver may not always have access to Internet. Chris can work without Internet because the voice recognition technology is inbuilt in the device and it does not need the Cloud to work as is the case with Alexa," he said.
Chris works both online and offline, meaning that if you enter a tunnel or drop out of a coverage area, Chris will continue to listen and talk to you, and also keep the navigation going, according to the description of the product in the company website.
The basic requirement for Chris is a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, though some features do need data connection on the phone.
Conceived by Holger Weiss and Patrick Weissert about two two-and-a-half years ago, Chris also allows people to control its functioning with simple hand gestures.
According to Weissert, who is the Co-Founder and Head of Product, German Autolabs, the smart hardware in Chris supports drivers like a real co-driver.
The device can be attached to the windscreen like a navigation device and paired with the mobile phone via Bluetooth.
"Touch screens are not good in the car because they require the driver to take the eyes off the road -- so voice and gestures are the future user interfaces for the car," Weissert told the IFA International, the official show daily.
Moreover, it is illegal to use smartphones while driving in many countries. In Germany, for example, one needs to pay a fine of 100 euros if one is caught using phones while driving, a company spokesperson told IANS.
The companion app for the device is compatible with both Android and iOS, so one does not need to worry about switching phones. All you need to do is download the free Chris companion app and install it on your phone before entering the car.
The device is priced 299 euros, the spokesperson added.
(Gokul Bhagabatis is visiting IFA 2018 at the invitation of Huawei Consumer Business Group)