Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant may have taken over our homes, but there’s still one area where voice assistants are lagging behind – our cars. We find this strange, because it’s also where voice control would be most useful, as picking up your phone in a moving vehicle is dangerous and could lead to a hefty fine.
Enter Chris, a digital assistant which adds hands-free entertainment, connectivity, and navigation capabilities to any car on the road – regardless of the age or model.
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The first thing we noticed about Chris is that it’s genuinely well-made. It feels solid and the screen clicks nicely into the magnetic mount.
We had it set up, attached to our windscreen, and ready to receive commands in no time at all, allowing us to receive and reply to texts (and WhatsApp) messages, listen to music, follow navigation instructions, and make and receive phone calls.
The first test, sending a text to my wife, worked flawlessly, with Chris reading back my the message before sending it. One thing that did standout, however, was how robotic Chris sounded, much more so than its Google and Amazon equivalents.
It’s important to note that the device stuck to your windscreen is just a screen, microphone, and speaker, all of the processing and requests are handled on your smartphone (just Android, for now) and transmitted via Bluetooth. You don’t always need to be connected to the internet, however, with some of Chris’ functions available offline.
Some other tests didn’t work so well, such as asking for navigation, where we were left waiting a long time for Chris to respond. Of course, it’s worth noting that this is a first generation device, and still very new, so it may take a while for bugs and performance issues to be ironed out.
When the navigation did finally load, it looked great on the clear, 2.1-inch circular screen. It’s bright, and uses bold, contrasting colours that can easily be read in bright conditions.
The navigation uses Here Maps to provide voice assisted turn-by-turn instructions, and it comes preloaded with maps from over 100 countries (with free updates).
Next we tried asking Chris to play us some music. While it did quickly start pumping out tunes, the actual sound quality left a lot to be desired. This can be fixed with an optional FM Adapter, which allows you to tune into Chris’ audio on your car’s FM radio and play it through your car’s speakers.
Chris in-car digital assistant review: verdict
Ultimately, if you want to update your ageing motor, this is the device to do it, and while it’s not flawless at the moment, it promises to get better and better as it learns and adapts with more feedback.