'Dashbot' Keeps Your Eyes on the Road

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In the ongoing battle to fight intexticated driving, Next Thing Co. (NTC) wants to put a robot on every car dashboard.

The miniature Dashbot connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth to control music, maps, and messages with just your voice. Say "Dashbot, text Polly" or "Dashbot, play Barry Manilow," and the artificial intelligence system will complete tasks while you keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and phone in your pocket.

Dashbot calls out turn-by-turn directions, reads texts aloud, and announces who's calling. It also comes with built-in support for playlists, podcasts, and streaming services like Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and more. Plus, an open API means developers can add more services in the future.

But before you can start calling out commands like, "Dashbot, navigate home," Next Thing Co. needs to meet its Kickstarter funding goal of $100,000; it already had over $85,000 at press time.

While early birds snapped up all the free shipping options, anyone can still buy a $49 Dashbot (with USB cable, DC power adapter, and aux cable). For an additional $16, the Dashbot Retro pack adds a cassette adapter and FM transmitter for your old-school ride.

NTC is also offering a $65 expansion pack, which includes an OBDII connector and 8GB microSD card. Can't decide? Just buy everything for $75. Expected to begin shipping in July, the gadget also comes in multi-packs: two for $98, four for $196, and 10 for $490.

NTC last year released the $9 C.H.I.P. computer with the intent to make building software and hardware easier. The company recently released the next-gen C.H.I.P. Pro.

"As designers ourselves, we couldn't help but build our own product powered by C.H.I.P. Pro. After much discussion, we realized that we all reached for our phones too much while we were driving," the group said. "The car seemed the most natural and helpful place to implement voice and AI. The next thing we knew, we had a design spec for Dashbot with working prototypes."

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