OnStar announces Bluetooth voice app, reads your Facebook messages to you

Texting while driving is deadly, for serious. But, letting someone else read to you is rather less risky, and talking isn't so bad either -- in moderation, anyway. Bring those two together and you have OnStar's solution, an upcoming Bluetooth app that will read text messages and status updates to you and, somewhat more interestingly, lets you speak a custom message that will be transcribed to your recipient. Fascinating? Absolutely, but we can't wait to hear what sort of fun and cheeky mistranslations come out of that feature. You can also post voice messages to Facebook and say things like "call back" to return a call. The app is, as of now, intended for Android devices only and is set to hit the Market sometime in the first half of the year, and at least initially it'll only work on cars that have Bluetooth or those equipped with the company's new aftermarket mirror, though you'll have to be paid up on your OnStar dues if you want to use it. Full details in the PR after the break.

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OnStar voice communications app

What: OnStar is launching a public pilot test in January 2011 of an OnStar voice communications app for Android mobile phones. Via a Bluetooth connection between their phone and their vehicle, drivers can send and receive text messages and Facebook updates using only their voices – keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

Why: Research indicates that 42 percent of all drivers have texted while driving (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2009), which has emerged as a major safety concern in recent years. With the OnStar voice communications
app, there is no need to look away from the road or take hands off the wheel to get incoming messages or send outgoing messages As more and more drivers pair their Bluetooth phones with their vehicles, OnStar wants to add value to the mobile connection and offer a safer and easy alternative for staying connected while driving.

When: Full launch is planned for later in the first half of 2011 through the Android Market, after thorough research and testing; cost to be determined.

Key Features:

Incoming SMS text messages and Facebook updates are converted from text to synthetic speech by the app, then sent via Bluetooth to the vehicle's speakers or to the speakers in the OnStar retail product.

Drivers can respond by voice through the in-vehicle or retail product microphone in several ways:
o Select by voice command among a list of defined messages, such as "Yes," "No" and "Driving."
o Speak a custom message, which is transcribed into text; also custom messages can be posted as
audio clips in Facebook.
o For text messages, say "Call Back" and the driver's phone will automatically dial the phone number
associated with the incoming message.
o For text messages, set an automatic reply to all incoming messages, such as: "I'm on the road until
3 p.m. and can get back to you then."
o For Facebook updates, the driver can say "Like" to like a friend's update.

Three operating modes help drivers learn how the app works:
o Beginner – provides full voice prompts for all features.
o Intermediate – provides fewer and shorter voice prompts.
o Expert – no voice prompts.

Requirements: A mobile phone running Android 2.2 or higher; either a GM vehicle with built-in Bluetooth or a vehicle equipped with the new OnStar retail product. OnStar is considering expanding the app in future to work with other manufacturer's in-vehicle Bluetooth systems, and adapting the app to run on other mobile platforms.

More Information:

Electronic press kit:
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