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///Humanlike. Innovative. Precise.

By dividing the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3-word address, what3words enables the most precise reference to any location around the globe. In contrast to GPS coordinates, 3-word addresses are easy to remember and, more importantly, they are designed for explicit and error-free voice input in 26 languages. I had the good fortune to talk to these innovators about what3words and their vision on voice input in vehicles.

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what3words offers an addressing system built for voice

Collecting your children from the Kindergarten at ///novelist.evolves.proofs, meeting your fiancé for a picnic in the middle of Hyde Park at ///sparks.impact.quit, or witnessing motor sports history at ///exclude.exulted.florists, the famous Pikes Peak, home of the International Hill Climb: what3words and their 3-word address system is transforming the voice-powered landscape and revolutionizing the way we think about global address systems.

By dividing the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3-word address, what3words enables the most precise reference to any location around the globe. In contrast to GPS coordinates, 3-word addresses are easy to remember and, more importantly, they are designed for explicit and error-free voice input in 26 languages.

Currently used by various businesses, governments, and individuals, this technology is now integrating with the automotive navigation system included in the all-new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), featured in the new A-Class.

At our Nuance Auto Forums in Detroit and Europe, attendees had the opportunity to experience the 3-word address system and to hear the what3word story and vision presented by Gigi Etienne, what3words Partnerships Manager, and Ashley Cashion, Head of Automotive and Mobility at what3words, personally. For those who could not attend, I had the good fortune to talk to these innovators about what3words and their vision on voice input in vehicles.

 

What was the motivation for developing the 3-words address system?

A simple way to talk about location is quite important to many business fields – from logistics and delivery, to photography, to travel or navigation businesses; however, there are fundamental problems with traditional addresses.

Street addresses are often complex and ambiguous and take a frustratingly long time to input into car navigation systems. While voice is helping to avoid clunky interfaces, vocalizing traditional addresses leads to frequent errors and miscommunications. For example,15 Ammanford Road and 50 Ammanford Road are hard for a speech recognition system to distinguish between. Street names are far from unique: there are 34 Victoria Roads in London alone, and an incredible 632 Juarez Streets in Mexico City, meaning drivers risk selecting the wrong destination.

Voice-powered devices are fast becoming an integral part of our lives, but in a recent independent study we conducted across motorists in the UK, US, and Germany, we found that 38% of drivers struggle to be recognized by their in-car device or find them difficult to program. We also found that every single satellite navigation user polled said they had gotten lost following directions at some point, and 60% cited things they dislike about using these systems, including cumbersome interfaces, unreliable voice input, and the fact that their satellite navigation system doesn’t recognize addresses or takes them to the wrong place.

what3words is the only addressing system built for voice. It uses a list of around 25,000 dictionary words that are easy to program into voice-controlled assistants. It accounts for similar sounding words like toffee and coffee, and words that are easily confused like stole and stolen. 3-word addresses are all unique, and similar sounding ones are placed far apart to make any mistakes obvious to the user.

Equipped with precise global addresses, what3words enables drivers to navigate accurately wherever they’re going, whether it’s a specific entrance to a building, or in the middle of a field. Voice navigation will become a standard way to input addresses, rather than a cool but unreliable feature.

 

How many words do you need to cover the whole world with three-word addresses and in how far did you influence the distribution of the three words?

The what3words system uses a wordlist of between 25,000 and 40,000 dictionary words, depending on the language version used. The algorithm sorts the list so that simpler and more common words are used in more populated areas, and longer words feature in unpopulated areas. The words are randomly assigned as this makes errors much easier to detect and correct. If similar 3-word combinations were placed near each other, it would make it much more difficult to notice a mistake. As it is, the system has been designed to have similar 3 word addresses a long way away from each other, so it is immediately obvious if a mistake has been made. For example ///table.chair.damp is in America, while ///table.chair.lamp is in Australia. It means you never set off in the wrong direction.

 

With our hybrid approach for automotive assistants, Nuance puts special emphasis on the availability of services even when internet connection gets lost. How does w3w ensure that 3-word navigation will work even if there is no internet connection?

The what3words system is fixed, so it never needs updating and it can work offline when you don’t have a data connection. Our partner apps and services typically launch using the online version of our system, but offline support is now being included in more and more apps that use what3words – and of course, our own apps work offline.

 

Looking at the future of mobility and delivery of goods, it is most likely that drones, flight taxis etc. will play a role. How do your 3-word addresses take the 3rd dimension into account – for example, if we are thinking about roof-top delivery with help of a drone?

what3words is already being used by a number of drone companies such as Hylio, Copter Express, and Altavian – enabling their users to identify a precise location to make a delivery as traditional addresses aren’t accurate enough to identify a drone landing spot. what3words is currently a 2D system and we recommend adding as much detail as possible, like Flat 6, 5th floor, ///table.lamp.chair. And, if and when height becomes helpful to specify, perhaps when rooftop drone deliveries become commonplace, we have various options for including this information.

 

You are already collaborating with various car manufacturers today and your technology has a clear advantage when it comes to voice control. What is your vision of how voice interaction with our cars will evolve in the years to come?

When we were writing the algorithm behind the what3words addressing system, we found ourselves in a unique position. We knew voice technology was on the rise, so we were able to create, from the start, the world’s first addressing system specifically designed for voice.

Voice is the next frontier of user-interface. It can now be used to instruct our machines and devices while keeping our hands and eyes free to cook, exercise, drive safely, and do anything else that used to be awkward or dangerous to do while typing and swiping.

The evolution of in-car speech recognition systems will be a driver in both convenience and safety. Removing the distraction of looking at your car’s device while driving allows for a heads-up display, so motorists can keep their eyes on the road. Similarly, the ability to navigate to a precise location is going to become increasingly important as consumer expectations continue to rise.

Mercedes-Benz is the first automobile manufacturer to integrate what3words into its head unit. All new A-Class vehicles have the technology built into their infotainment system, and 700,000 vehicles already on the road were able to prompt an over-the-air update to become what3words enabled. This means, for the first time in a car, navigation destinations can be entered and searched for with the help of 3-word addresses. Our prediction is the use of what3words in this way will become a new global standard, redefining the way we navigate.

 

Which application of 3-word addressing are you particularly proud of and why?

It’s difficult to call out one particular partner, but the Mercedes-Benz integration was a huge achievement for us and we expect to see our technology integrated by more global brands of a similar caliber over the next couple of years. The process was also extremely fast, with conception to implementation taking only around six months.

We are continually inspired by what people are doing with our technology – from individuals to large businesses, governments, and NGO’s. Being able to supply technology to those working in disaster response zones, such as NATO and the Red Cross, has been incredibly rewarding.

 

Gigi, Ashley, thank you very much for your time!

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1,000 years of emoji history and what Machine Learning means for its future
A look at emoji: how they’ve changed over time and where they are going
Part 4: How to avoid 5 common automotive HMI usability pitfalls
Errors will happen – it’s how they’re handled that matters
No cloud, no data – no problem for cars with embedded dictation
Embedded technology picks up where cloud connectivity leaves off
How to avoid driver information overload when using automotive human machine interfaces
Part 2: How to avoid 5 common automotive HMI usability pitfalls
HMI design is a balancing act of too much and not enough information
Image alt-text: UK Germany interview of a driver who wants personalized connected car technology
Why personalization is the key to the future of the connected car
New survey results make the case for in-car technology that fits our lifestyles
Car navigation should work with both on-board and off-board cloud solutions with simple spoken word
Why navigation systems shouldn’t require more than just simple spoken words
Navigating on-board and off-board content with voice technology
A proactive automotive assistant helps tell drivers what’s wrong with their cars and how to maintenance to fix issues
What’s that on the dash? How an automotive assistant can help alert drivers of maintenance
Cars are becoming both self-aware and better communicators through in-car intelligence
Connected cars are becoming more connected to the IoT and more useful, employing ubiquitous personal assistants that exist across devices and experiences
KITT – Please open the garage
How talking cars that talk to "things" make life simpler, smarter
complex devices mean we need good voice experiences for internet of things
The walls (and appliances) are talking: Building voice interfaces for the IoT
How to simplify the complexity of interacting with billions of connected devices
Pebble brings Nuance’s voice technology to Pebble devices, developers
Pebble brings Nuance’s voice technology to Pebble devices and developers
Using voice to simplify experiences with smartwatches
Traveling alone in Spain, I formed a new appreciation for language as an art and the technology we’ve built to interpret and interact with people
Lost in translation: A solo trip abroad and discovering the art of language
Sunrises in Spain and machines you can talk to
deep learning connected car echnology
Deep learning, coming to a car near you
Computing systems inspired by the human brain change the way we interact with cars
Meet the virtual assistant who’s cooler than you
She’s smart, organized, and knows all the things you don’t
With cloud connectivity, voicemail-to-text messaging in emerging global markets provides easy, flexible access to messages
The global, cloud-connected rise of voicemail-to-text messaging
Consumers and mobile operators look to the cloud for flexible voice solutions
Group of friends has all the tech essentials and sits cheering on their team at their Super Bowl party
5 must-haves for the tech-lovers’ ultimate Super Bowl party
Get ready for kick-off with these gadgets and tips
Exploring CES like Odysseus makes way for the Internet of Healthcare Things
CES 2015: Turning a techie into a modern-day Odysseus
The benefits of taking the circuitous route around the CES 2015 showroom floor
Our top predictions for CES 2015 include wearable devices and connected mobile apps made possible by the Internet of Things.
Top 5 tech predictions for CES 2015
Consumer health, connected cars, televisions and more expected to stand out at CES 2015
Having Slacker Radio in your Toyota Entune or Lexus Enform Dragon Drive-equipped car is like having a DJ in your dashboard
Dragon Drive and Slacker Radio present a DJ in your dashboard
More music and content continue to drive an innovative in-car infotainment experience
samsung-gear-developers
Live from Samsung Developer Conference 2014: Spotlight on the Gear App Challenge
Developers are innovating for the next wave of wearable devices
nuance-at-samsung-developer-conference-connected-lifestyle
Voice and the connected lifestyle at Samsung Developer Conference 2014
NDEV Samsung Early Access Program brings the future of voice in IoT to app developers
swype-on-ios-8-for-iphone-ipad
A new way to “text”: Swype keyboard debuts for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
Swype, the original continuous touch keyboard, launches on the App Store
Speaktacular-Sight-Words-app
Teaching kids to read with the Speaktacular Sight Words reading app
Interactive application assists children with reading development skills
swype-living-language-world-cup-fans
Who really won the World Cup? (According to Swype fans, that is)
Swype Living Language harnesses the power of real-time trending words and phrases
Easter Seals' Evening of Empowerment 2014
Reflecting on Easter Seals’ Evening of Empowerment, 2014
"Yes you can!"
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To [Toq] of many things…”
Nuance’s voice-to-text technology added into the Qualcomm® Toq™ smartwatch
Embracing the evolution of the connected car
Connectivity, content, and voice are defining a new kind of driving experience
Dragon Drive: The future of the connected car
Your driving experience could soon be a part of a robust connected lifestyle
The Greatest Voice of All Time: Let the games begin
Help us celebrate World Voice Day and choose which voice you think trumps all
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