Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where's the nearest Marriott?
Now you can ask your GPS

Here at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, GPS maker Garmin debuted its new nüvi 880. It's a premium portable navigation device with speech recognition, MSN Direct content, and a zillion other convenience and safety features.

According to the company, the unit "uses speech recognition to make navigation safer and easier than ever. Now it’s possible to keep both hands on the wheel, tell nüvi what to do and where to go, and you’re on your way to stress-free travel. And with enhanced MSN Direct services, the nüvi 880 provides cutting-edge content like traffic, fuel prices, news and business headlines, and a wireless send-to-GPS capability.”

Users mount a push-to-talk wireless remote to their steering wheel, which is used to activate voice commands – no additional setup or “training” is required. Once activated, the user can effortlessly manipulate controls by speaking the words that correspond to buttons that are on the touchscreen display, so that almost any common task can be performed without ever touching the unit.

Garmin has also streamlined the way users can perform complex points of interest searches. Driving in an unfamiliar area and hungry for some spaghetti? Simply say, “find nearest Italian restaurant,” and you’re offered a menu of nearby pasta purveyors. Use a voice command to select the establishment of your choice, and the nuvi 800 series gives you turn-by-turn directions to dinner. The nuvi 880 also knows the names of many large business brands, so a user need only say, “find place,” then "Starbucks" for a quick caffeine fix.

For the ultimate in safety, a driver at any time speak the phrase, “where am I?” and their device will display its exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and gas stations. Speech recognition can also be used to search for addresses as well – all hands-free, from start to finish. Speech recognition is available for American English, British English, European French, European Spanish, German, Italian, and Netherlands Dutch languages.

The nüvi 880 also boasts next-generation dynamic content from the MSN Direct network that helps users efficiently navigate their day, including:

  • Traffic conditions: receive up-to-date traffic incident and flow information for most metropolitan areas across North America, and let nüvi select a route that avoids traffic accidents, road closures, and construction.
  • Fuel prices: receive gas price data from over 100,000 gas stations across the nation. Drivers will always know where to get the best prices – and save time and fuel by using their unit to navigate directly to the station of their choice.
  • Weather reports: features current weather conditions (including high/low/current temperatures, chances of precipitation, humidity, pressure, wind, and weather alerts) as well as three day weather forecasts.
  • Enhanced movie listings: search for movies by title or by theater and receive show times, ‘star’ ratings, genre, actors, and more – and get driving directions to the theater.
  • Local events: receive special notices on festivals, concerts, and sporting events in your area, and navigate to them.
  • News and stocks: the latest news headlines and financial market updates are always at your fingertips.
  • Send to GPS capability: plan trips and look up destinations from the convenience of your computer, via Windows Live Local, and then wirelessly send locations to your nüvi 880.

    Three months of free MSN Direct service is included with the purchase of the nüvi 880. Owners can re-subscribe for $49.95 a year, or a one-time charge of $129.95.

    The nüvi 880 has Bluetooth wireless technology for hands-free calling when paired with compatible phones. Using the unit’s speech recognition capabilities, users can find and dial phone numbers (specifically supported phones can even access their history log of received, missed and dialed calls) or nüvi’s points of interest database (hotels, restaurants, stores and more). The device also has a built-in FM transmitter, allowing users to wirelessly transmit turn-by-turn directions and street names, MP3s and audio books through their vehicle’s sound system. The nüvi 880 also has front-firing stereo speakers and a removable lithium-ion battery.

    Boasting a bright, sunlight-readable 4.3-inch color touchscreen display (480x272 pixels), the nüvi 880 is loaded with maps of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. The unit incorporates a high-sensitivity internal GPS antenna that makes it thinner and easier to mount in a car. At startup (Garmin’s new “instant on” feature makes the unit quicker to use), Garmin’s intuitive “Where To?” and “View Map” welcome screen appears, allowing for quick searches of addresses or over six million points of interest like restaurants, hotels, attractions, gas stations, and more. Turn-by-turn, voice-prompted directions guide drivers to their destination, announcing streets by name along the way. If they miss a turn, the nüvi automatically recalculates a route and gets them back on track.

    To help drivers find their car in an unfamiliar spot or crowded parking lot, the unit automatically marks where it was last removed from the windshield mount. Users can save 10 routes, specify via points and preview simulated turns, and the unit automatically sorts multiple destinations to provide an efficient route for errands, deliveries or sales calls. It also displays speed limits for highways and interstates, and a trip log provides an electronic bread crumb trail of up to 10,000 points.

    The nüvi 880 also includes many entertainment and travel tools including a music player (MP3, Ogg, and Flac formats supported), audio book player (subscription to required), alarm clock, picture viewer, currency converters and more. The nüvi 880 even has games pre-loaded to pass the time while waiting in airports and long lines. The unit also comes with Garmin Lock™, a theft prevention system that disables the unit from performing any functions until the user types in a specific 4-digit PIN or takes the unit to a predetermined secure location.

    Garmin also offers the nüvi 850, which offers speech recognition capabilities but without MSN Direct services or Bluetooth wireless technology. All other features are comparable to the nüvi 880.

    The nüvi 800 series will be available in the second quarter of 2008. Visit for more information and pricing.
    This is a preview, not a review.
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