By Jackson West
In the fight to increase profit margins on cell phone accounts, Promptu offers carriers a new weapon — voice search for premium content. The rebranded company, formerly known as AgileTV, is expanding their original technology developed for navigating cable television content to the mobile platform. Their value proposition is that users frustrated with navigating the wilderness of hierarchical menus on a tiny screen would buy more $2.50 ring tones if only there was an easier way.
The system eschews client-side voice recognition for a mostly server-side approach. According to their website, the phone is only responsible for recording the voice command. Promptu’s client software then compresses it into the meaningful vector data, and then sends it across the network to their servers, which process the search and return the relevant content. They say their server-side architecture means that they can support a much larger vocabulary and spoken dialect library, and update that library faster, than traditional voice recognition technologies embedded on the device.
A few questions need to be answered about the service: How does it handle heavy background noise? Will they be able to add functionality like localized services and searches for information besides premium content? What kind of mobile operating systems are support their client software? And, of course, ultimately whether any carriers have expressed interest, and when it will be deployed in a test market?
According to research by Greenfield Online quoted on their site, 80% of cell phone users would be interested in trying a service like Promptu. They will be at CTIA in April, hopefully providing a functional demonstration of the technology. It’s certainly a new paradigm in mobile device interfaces, and if they don’t succeed, someone probably will.
Jackson West is a San Francisco-based freelance writer.