For many drivers, hands-free kits are not only a good idea, but the law. A huge array of devices have come out over the past few years, many with a common problem -- they're rather bulky and unattractive. Now Parrot, the same company that brings you the über-cool AR.Drone, has announced the MINIKIT Neo (US$99.99) to change all of that.
From an initial look at the MINIKIT Neo, I think it's going to be a winner, and for those who either don't have an Siri-equipped iPhone or won't be able to get a Siri Eyes-Free Mode button in their car, it appears to be a good solution. The device weighs only 2.5 ounces, is battery-powered (eliminating the need for dangling cords), and is advertised as "100 percent hands-free". There's a reason Parrot is making that distinction -- a lot of "hands-free kits" that I've tested actually require the user to tap or push a button to perform certain actions, which can be just as distracting to a driver as picking up a phone.
To activate the MINIKIT Neo, a driver just needs to say "MINIKIT", then say the name of a contact to dial that person. With incoming calls, the driver says "Accept" or "Reject" to answer or turn down the call. The MINIKIT Neo connects with your phone via Bluetooth or NFC, so if a next-generation iPhone brings NFC to the game, a tap of the phone against the MINIKIT Neo will pair it.
Two Bluetooth phones can be connected to the MINIKIT Neo at once, perfect for those situations when you and a friend are on the road together. There's a built-in vibration sensor that switches the MINIKIT Neo into On mode and connects it to your phone when you get into your car.
The true power of the MINIKIT Neo is in the app that Parrot is developing. The company is proposing to have a parking meter reminder, driving time reminder, and "find my car" function. The last feature stores the last GPS position of the MINIKIT Neo kit when the connection between it and the phone is lost, thus capturing the location of your car.
The app may also let you draft a text message that can be automatically sent when you receive a SMS or if you refuse a call. Finally, the app may have a feature to allow you to personalize the sound effects heard during power on or off.
The MINIKIT Neo is expected to be available in September of 2012. As usual, TUAW will bring you a full review. In the meantime, enjoy the animated video below.