The last time we saw Parrot, it was showing us its AR Drone, a helicopter controlled via the iPhone accelerometer and sensors. Now the company has come up with Asteroid, a media console for the car that it was showing off at CES this week. It runs on Android, plays music (from the Internet, or from music on a USB key, iPod or other MP3 player), and will also provide geo-location services -- namely maps and traffic information.
The car phone begat the mobile phone; the smart phone begets the smart console.
Asteroid is still a bit mysterious. It will be available in the second quarter in the U.S., according to Christian Coly, Parrot's VP of Sales and Marketing: from retailers, auto manufacturers and independent installers. It will be available sooner in Europe.
And while it runs Android, you can't just load up Android apps. It will come with a few, Coly said, including Parrot Maps, where you can zoom into locations with the turn of a knob. It really seems much more like operating a radio than operating a phone's touch screen.
There will be an SDK for developers to write road-friendly applications. Coly said that the unit will play music from the Web, but wouldn't specify if this would come via a service like Pandora. This would require plugging in a 3G (or presumably 4G) key (the company doesn't provide this, but you can plug in any USB-based device).
The product also supports BlueTooth. You can pair a mobile phone with the receiver and use voice activated commands to answer calls. You can also update the device's phone book over Bluetooth.
Pricing is not yet available.
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Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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