The Roav VIVA is the latest gadget from Anker’s Roav smart driving line, and it’s basically an Echo Dot for your car. Once you plug it into your vehicle’s 12V port and go through a fairly simple setup process on your phone, you’ll be able to use your VIVA for all of the typical Alexa tricks:
“Alexa, play Jeopoardy.”
“Alexa, read me the news.”
“Alexa, call Shane.”
“Alexa, turn off my lights.”
“Alexa, play The Killers’ latest album,”
It all works here just like it would at home, but with the key addition of turn-by-turn directions: At any time while you’re driving, you can invoke Alexa with your voice and ask for directions to a specific address, or make vague queries like “route me to the nearest gas station,” and it’ll pull up turn-by-turn on your phone through your choice of either Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze. Sure, as an iPhone owner, I could already do this with Siri, but only with Apple Maps, which was never worth the hassle.
While the VIVA’s hardware includes microphones and a mute button, it still relies on your phone for pretty much everything else, which creates a little bit of friction. For example, if you’re listening to a podcast, and ask Alexa to read your flash briefing, you’ll have to tap on a notification to open up the VIVA app, which gives it control over your phone’s audio output. Ditto for turn-by-turn directions: the VIVA app will send a notification after you make a request, and once you tap it, it’ll load up your favorite map app with your destination already inputted. It’s not tremendously problematic, but it’s not quite as seamless as using an Echo Dot at home. My advice for iPhone owners: Set VIVA’s notification banners to be persistent, so they won’t slide away before you can get to them.
This being an Anker product, it should hardly come as a surprise that the VIVA has a couple of high-speed 2.4A USB outlets built in, so you can still charge your phone or your dash cam while you’re on the road. But since the front of the VIVA is dedicated to microphones and a mute button, the ports had to be placed on the bottom, which is awkward at best, and incompatible with your car at worst. If your 12V port is tucked into a small crevice of your car, you might not be able to plug anything into it. Anker maintains a list of known incompatible vehicles on their Amazon product page, but you can return it for up to 30 days if you find that it doesn’t work with your car.
If you’re already happy with your phone’s built-in voice assistant, you probably don’t need the VIVA. But for iPhone owners frustrated with Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn directions, or anyone who has a particular favorite Alexa skill that they want to access on the road (Jeopardy is fun as hell while driving, for the record), the VIVA is a great brain for your car.