Voice services: Other people making money on your mouth

Voice services are the future right? The Starship Enterprise's sassy lady opened doors and took evasive action. For now, ours are limited to giving directions and translating text.

Voice services are the next generation of technology evolving from person-to-person phone calls. Voice services can solve some of the big problems like having to press buttons or pay attention to what you're doing. That's good for people with vision problems and for road warriors. In the past, people associated automated voice services with the fictional computer of the Starship Enterprise, but these days we're able to use it for mobile Web services like GOOG-411 and 1-800-DIRECTIONS, which showed off their stuff in the last session.

First up was Lypp, which offers a mobile conference-calling platform. Lypp mixes SMS and instant messaging for Blackberry and phones running Windows Mobile. The service has an API, which lets you build in Lypp functionality to other Web applications or services. Their consumer front-end works with an IM bot you can message with the names of the people you want to talk to, and the service will pull them into a conference call by using your phone book. It's also got a scheduling utility that lets you set up a call for a later date.

The company makes its cash on a per-minute model by charging users for the call, although it intends to move to an all-you-can-eat flat rate in the future. Unlike a FreeConferenceCall.com there's no free version. The creators of Lypp don't think that model is stable or sustainable due to its foundation of shaky local law that works by jumping the call through various states with loopholes.


Talkster is a voice-and-text platform. In sum, it lets you call your international buddies by using local numbers to avoid some of those heavy per-minute charges. The service supplements itself with short advertisements. We took a look at the service a few weeks back and came away impressed with their savings over a standard international call, but a little turned off by the amount of advertising that's been integrated to make it so cheap.


Vlingo is a speech-recognition service that lets users talk into a mobile-phone application that turns speech into written words. It offers a free speech-to-text search application on its Web site, running on just a few phones for Sprint and AT&T. The real hope, however, is to make money from the technology platform, which adapts and learns from its users speech. To see if your phone is supported, go here.


Wrapping up the session was Yap which has a handy application that turns your voice into text for IM and SMS conversations and a slew of other mobile applications. The service showed its goods a few months ago at the TechCrunch40 Conference. One of Yap's creators, Igor Jablokov, talked about his company's advertising platform and the potential to pull in contextual ads based on what people are talking about. While the service isn't available yet (they're trying to get a good deal with a carrier), Jablokov did a cool live demo on stage showing the application being able to discern spelling between "serial" and "cereal" based on usage in two different sentences. Creepy.

Still to come: advertising, social networking, and more.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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