The “Hi Proton” voice control system has been a standout feature of Proton’s latest models, and with its expansion to other Southeast Asian markets imminent, the company has been translating the system to other languages. The national carmaker is working on a Thai version in anticipation of a market relaunch in the Land of Smiles, according to a press release from partner Geely.

Developing a new language for an advanced voice control system was no mean feat, Geely said. The team initially worked with a library of words that was first translated from Mandarin to English, then to Thai. This was a “complex and flawed” process, so a native speaker was eventually brought in to advise on local cultures and customs, providing context and enabling the system to understand commands better.

This is on top of all the localisation that was done to develop an English version specific for our market. Proton worked with Geely Key User Interface (GKUI) developer ECARX, bringing in over 200 individuals to record voice samples such as the “Hi Proton” wake-up phrase and commands like “lower the window” and “switch off the AC”. Each phrase had to be recorded ten times quickly and ten times slowly to allow the system to recognise local word pronunciations at varying speeds.

Geely said that Proton and ECARX also had to recalibrate the navigation application to reflect the local topography and traffic conditions. They obtained raw mapping and location data from Here Maps and gave it to a third party – in this case, Alibaba’s AutoNavi – to compile it into an app called AMAP for the GKUI system. Previously, Proton used data from Baidu Maps.

News of Proton developing a Thai version of the “Hi Proton” voice control system is just another confirmation of the company’s plans to reenter Thailand. The brand was launched there at the end of 2007 but sales tailed off over the past five years as Proton refocused on the local market.

Early this year, CEO Li Chunrong said the company was asked by Geely to expand in Southeast Asia, with Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore earmarked as initial target markets. Then last week, an ASEAN NCAP crash test report of the forthcoming X50 confirmed that the car was planned to be exported to Thailand.

With the GKUI system and its voice control feature having gained English functionality here, it will now make its way to the European market in Lynk & Co’s vehicles as part of that brand’s launch there. Technical limitations mean there can only be one system language at one time, so English is set to be the main language in the continent as well, albeit with modifications to account for the differing accents and vocabulary.