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Summary:

Vlingo, a Cambridge, MA-based start-up that has developed voice-based interface for mobile phones is working with AT&T and Sprint, according to The New York Times. Both wireless carriers are testing an app called, The Find, which allows you to speak and search for local business information, […]

Vlingo, a Cambridge, MA-based start-up that has developed voice-based interface for mobile phones is working with AT&T and Sprint, according to The New York Times. Both wireless carriers are testing an app called, The Find, which allows you to speak and search for local business information, songs or some web information.

I wrote about the company back in August 2007 and was quite impressed. What I like about the company (and others like it) is that we need to figure out a way to make the complicated-phones of today easier to use.

That said, Vlingo has some challenges: the market is very crowded and more players keep entering the business including some with deep pockets. For example, Nuance, the voice recognition giant, that in recent weeks has been talking up its mobile strategy.

  1. While not nearly as varied, Microsoft’s Live Search already lets you search local business listings by voice…I’m not sure if that’s only in their Windows Mobile app though.

    What’s annoying is the programs that say “click to speak” and then end up breaking out of the app to call some phone number that does the voice recognition…even if the whole process works seemlessly, it makes it take significantly longer and uses minutes.

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  2. I think the Microsoft Live Search is limited to Windows Mobile. Anyway their TellMe Mobile feature works on many different phones and while not flawless is still pretty darn good.

    On your second point Niraj, totally agree :-) A lot more work needs to be done. By the way try out Vlingo and let me know what you think.

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  3. In this category, you should also mention Mobivox, which has a voice-driven interface for calling people on your buddy list, and even setting up conference calls. Also Jott and Reqall. Probably a few others I’m forgetting.

    The real shame in the voice rec industry is that Nuance has become a monopoly supplier with total freedom to set prices. I see real opportunity for someone else to enter the market and compete with them.

    There are also some open source systems that are decent, although you need someone with solid programming skills to make them work with the rest of your system. (That’s what we’re doing at FōnCloud… unveiling at EComm, btw.)

    What I’d love to see is a total SaaS approach – Voice Rec as a web service where you just pay by the word. We already have this for offline transcription, but nothing for real-time. That would trigger a whole new flock of interesting mash-ups.

    • Shai
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  4. one of the most interesting things in that NY Times article was the ability to hear and dictate SMS messages, particularly when driving. if you look at the stats of people who text when driving it’s scary, and with texting huge among the 16 year old set – there will only be more potential for accidents as a result. this could be a boon to safety as well. /moishe mortyandmoishe.blogspot.com

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  5. Moishe, this is precisely the use case the Yap platform is targeting given these unnerving stats you mention. It’s certainly a touch more difficult problem given the uptime/realtime expectations vs. a search application that people will be more forgiving with if it trips up; this environment challenges even some of the larger incumbents Om mentions.

    That said, we appreciate the visibility that these sorts of articles bring to our industry and it certainly feels like things are finally aligning for all of us to reach whole product.

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  6. It will probably take a few years before we have solid statistics, but I’ll bet, when we do, the amount of accidents caused by texting-while-driving will be very troubling.

    I just learned of Aegis Mobility (http://www.aegismobility.com/) which has an interesting approach. They use GPS to sense if you’re in a moving car and disable texting and/or reroute calls to voicemail. (But how will they distinguish whether the movement is because I’m driving or a passenger?)

    They have some nice verbiage about “protecting us from ourselves”. I’d paste in some text from their site, but it’s all Flash. Grrr!

    – Shai

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  7. I would enjoy using this application in my Polish-English Dictionary (see website). This is one of the main taregets I have always thought of.
    It woub be nice to talk to a cell phone (my application) and ee the result on the screen which can later be sent as a text messa to somebody.
    We already have this possiblity in our latest application of Lexitools for mobile phones. You can add words and phrases together and send a sensible bilingual message e.g. when youy are in trouble (sick, stolen car etc.)
    It wouold eb a pleasure to test voice-based interface for mobile phones soon. Besxt regards and congratulations.

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