Skip to main content

Kia UVO: Mainstream Infotainment In The 2012 Soul

Hands-On With Microsoft Tellme Speech Recognition

Speech recognition is where Ford’s SYNC and Kia's UVO part ways. While Ford incorporates a popular speech recognition engine from Nuance (also used by Apple for Siri and Dragon Naturally Speaking software) Kia utilizes a complete Microsoft solution, integrating the Tellme speech recognition engine.

Kia brags that UVO's advanced voice recognition gives maximum voice accuracy. To improve upon the system's default capabilities, you're given the option to create voice profiles as a training tool for Microsoft's engine. The profile creation process requires that you read a couple of sentences, allowing the software to detect your speech patterns and voice inflection. We didn't bother generating a profile during our loan period, and didn't run into any accuracy issues.

During testing, I found the Tellme-powered speech recognition to be very accurate with words and names. I called our editor-in-chief Chris Angelini through the system on my first attempt. If you remember back to our look at SYNC with MyFord Touch, Nuance's speech recognition engine refused to get even remotely close to Chris' name. Music playback worked well, also, and I was able to string commands together like “Play USB artist N.E.R.D.,” “Play song Party Rock Anthem,” and a handful of radio-oriented commands. The only time I ran into an issue with Tellme speech recognition was when I attempted to spell out a name, such as L.M.F.A.O. (the file name was Lmfao, with no periods). But this was almost assuredly an issue with our test file's name. Humorously enough, it actually worked when we pronounced “Lmfao” phonetically.  

Overall, Kia's decision to use Microsoft’s Tellme speech recognition engine for UVO appears to be a good one. It doesn’t support the 10 000 commands that Ford claims its Nuance-based SYNC with MyFord Touch recognizes, but Kia also isn’t trying to control everything within the cabin using UVO. The speech recognition works as advertised for voice-directed control over your music and phone. We had better luck using Kia's system to find obscure names (Ed.: Hey, Angelini isn't that strange), and that's what matters most.

Although Kia's UVO speech recognition worked very well, we still prefer using steering wheel-based controls for channel surfing through HD Radio and Sirius presets. That's a personal preference, though. When we had a hankering for music stored on an attached flash drive, voice recognition made it easier to pick an artist or song without distractedly browsing through the folders, particularly given our awful file naming conventions and lack of MP3 tags.

  • sp0nger
    This seems super basic to me..

    I see what you did there kia, but as a reader of toms i would be much more interested in you inspecting the tech around more advanced systems in higher end cars
    Reply
  • sp0nger
    On second thought i would love to see your break down of the new GTR those systems are insane, thats worthy of a 10 page read
    Reply
  • tuanies
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.
    Reply
  • ivyanev
    Isn't it strange that a smartphone can do all theese things(except for multichanel music maybe)
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    9535232 said:
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.


    Genesis Coupe's are nice.

    Come on ya'll should do a Morning or Matiz. Or heck review a tricked out Daewoo Damas, just for kicks.
    Reply
  • ZakTheEvil
    So the backup camera is there to compensate for the poor "style over function" body design that limits the rear view?
    Reply
  • Parrdacc
    Amazing that car companies like Ford and KIA and others are just now doing this. Meanwhile all us car enthusiasts have had most of these capabilities for years now. I have had hondas with head units like JVC and Alpine that do the same thing. The current JVC I got four years back is running strong with Bluetooth connection to my phone with voice, GPS, Voice navigation and recognition, usb mp3 playback, ipod connection, which I do not use as I find just plugging in a usb to the front of the player just easier than the running a cable to the ipod.

    Well, welcome to the party Ford and KIA.
    Reply
  • Parrdacc
    Oh, on more thing. A 4.3inch display. Really. I got a 7" display thats touchscreen and that was without any custom work done. The KIA appears to have a double din which should be more than capable of using a 7" inch touchscreen, or at least one that is larger than 4.3 inches, so why they went this route I do not know. A buddy of mine has got a Nissan with a factory radio and his display is about 6".
    Reply
  • willard
    Ugh, Kia. I owned a Kia once. Took $5k in engine repairs over three years to keep it on the road. Blew two head gaskets, three thermostats went out, radiator failed once. The front end CV joints are bad about going out on most of their older cars as well (I went through three), and good luck if you need to replace a wheel bearing (which also like to go out on the front end). Need a special Kia service tool to do it, which they don't sell and no mechanic has except Kia dealerships. Enjoy your $400 repairs you could have done yourself for $50 if they just used standard tools.

    Kia costs less up front, but WAY more in maintenance. Buy a Hyundai if you're looking for a quality car on the cheap. They don't fall apart on you like Kias do.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Picked up a Hyundai for my wife a few years ago and love it (well... for the price anyways... it is no VW). I am now looking for a commuter car for myself and am looking at KIA (which is the cheaper Hyundai brand). I had been wondering about their UVO system because I am thinking about a Rio5 which also has this as an option. It dosn't seem that great, but it is good to know that what is there works solid (other than the texting issues), so perhaps I will spring for it when the time comes to jump on it.

    Can you select a playlist instead of an individual song? or is it too basic for that?
    Reply