Where was that pub?

Ever wanted to get directions to a hotel or pub directly from the Internet while motoring around in your car? Now you can – thanks to a new system developed between Microsoft and General Magic. The system itself makes use of General Magic’s `Portico` virtual assistant that runs on a Windows CE-powered Auto PC. Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, the Auto PC uses the Portico service to enable drivers to ask for complex information, such as directions to a specific address, simply by asking for them in a natural speaking voice. The information is then retrieved from the Internet and displayed onscreen in the car through the Auto PC system.

In addition, drivers can ask for information about businesses and then search by category, such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, petrol stations and many others. Automatically drawing data from MSN Sidewalk, the Auto PC displays a list of nearby businesses matching the driver’s request. The driver can request directions to any of the businesses, or place a call to them simply by asking the Portico system to dial the number for them.