You're not stuck with the nice, but bland and generic voice that speaks directions from your in-car GPS. Most stock receivers come with alternate voices built in. But in some cases, you can download and install amusing new text-to-speech voices that will impress your friends, miff your significant other (some alternative voices are downright sultry), or just provide digital companionship as you find your way through the world. Here's how to find and install new GPS voices.
Update: TomTom has added the voices of famed race car drivers Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Juan Pablo Montoya. These racer voices, and car sounds and images are available for download free of charge from TomTom's racer voices page.
TomTom and Garmin have partnered with a company called Navtones to offer downloadable voices in a range of styles.
You can now put Homer Simpson of The Simpsons in charge of your personal navigation and safety, thanks to a new deal he has inked with GPS maker TomTom. The authentic Homer's voice will not only provide precision directions, but will comment on your driving ("You are a genius!") and embellish with a cackle. Hear some voice samples, and buy and install Homer's voice via TomTom's Homer page. No telling what will happen without Marge along to be the voice of reason.
On the celebrity side, you can ride with Kim Cattrall (of Sex and the City fame), Curt Schilling, Boston Red Sox pitching star; Dennis Hopper (the Easy Rider), Mr. T, Burt Reynolds, or Gary Busey.
Just-for-fun GPS voices include Candee, Count Whackula, Witch Waytogo, Bubba... you get the idea. You can listen to voice samples on Navtone's Tomtom Web site.
Alternative voices through Navtones cost $5.95 through $12.95, with celebrities commanding the higher price. You will need software version 5.0 or higher, and check for model compatibility before you buy. Begin by paying for and downloading the voice file to your computer. Next, connect your GPS device via its included USB cable, and transfer the files, which will become selectable from your touchscreen menu.
PIGtones (politically incorrect GPS) prides itself on fun, sexy, and celebrity voices. Examples include Stewie from The Family Guy, Yoda, Bubba, and very sexy Sadera. PIGtones sell for $12.97 for TomTom or Garmin.
I've often been asked whether it's possible to use your own recording as a GPS voice, and I had to answer yes, but it was a highly technical process. That has changed with Garmin's introduction of its free Voice Studio. Simply download and install the software (PC only, so far), then record onto your computer a set of required phrases, such as "proceed to highlighted route," and "traffic ahead." Follow simple instructions to install the voice set into your compatible Garmin GPS. You may use your own versions of all the common GPS commands. This is a terrific addition to GPS voice options.
Enjoy your new road companion!