Your Ford can talk -- and measure your heart rate, too

Heart symbol on dashboard

Ford is relentless in pushing Ford Sync and its voice-recognition technology forward.

The first-generation Sync system could process 100 voice commands. Sync in today's Fords can process more than 10,000 commands.

I recently spent a morning at Ford's product development center in Dearborn, Mich., getting the lowdown on some of its latest technology, including new developments in its Sync communications system and voice recognition.

Not all of the features I saw are guaranteed to see the light of day.

One innovation that might be more an exercise in fun for Sync developers than a future feature is a Trivial Pursuit-like game in which the Sync voice asks multiple-choice questions that the driver or passenger answers.

Some of the system's responses to incorrect answers are pretty funny.

More than anything, though, this game illustrates the forward leaps interactive communications are making.

Another Sync upgrade in progress is health-and-wellness monitoring.

Partnering with a number of websites and health management companies, Sync developers are designing systems that can do everything from monitor a diabetic's blood glucose level to measuring a driver's heart rate.

It can also monitor pollen counts and other potential allergens, warning allergy sufferers when those levels are threateningly high.

The health-monitoring examples I saw were fairly basic, but it's not difficult to imagine a future when such a system might alert the driver to an impending heart attack or stroke.

Working with the language technology company Nuance Communications, Ford is striving to make the interface between driver and Sync as seamless as possible.

Prompting the desired response can now be achieved by asking one of several different questions rather than running through a series of specific commands.

For example you might ask, "How did the Steelers do yesterday?" And Sync will give you the score of the football game.

You don't have to know the specific series of commands that narrows the focus to the information you want, such as Traveler Information, Sports Scores, NFL, and Steelers.

Carrying on conversations with our cars is apparently around the corner.

Can the wonders of "Knight Rider" be far behind?

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