An internet phone service which uses voice recognition to display computer screen adverts linked to conversation subjects has been launched in the US.
California-based Puddingmedia hopes eventually to be able to sell their system to major companies operating PC-based phone systems such as Skype.
It works by picking out key words and trying to link them to suitable adverts.
For example users might see adverts for local restaurants and restaurant review sites, while talking about going out for dinner.
Or someone discussing buying a new computer might see links for computer stores.
Its inventors admit it does not always hit the target. ‘Sometimes crazy things pop up. It actually enriches the conversation, which is very cool,’ said company chief executive Ariel Maislos.
The company today launched a public trial of the software on its site www.ThePudding.com.
It says users will be able to place free calls to US and Canadian phone numbers from their computers using headsets or microphones.
The phone numbers are entered via a web browser, which is also where the ads and links show up.
The company’s aim is not to be an independent provider of ad-financed internet phone calls, but to license its speech-recognition service to other companies that use voice over internet protocol, or Voip.
Puddingmedia said it was talking to several possible partners but cannot name any yet.
Outfits like Skype would be possible partners.
Skype provides free calls between computers but charges for calls to phone numbers so it can recoup connection fees charged by phone companies. Those costs could possibly be offset by using advertising like Puddingmedia’s.
The actual speech recognition is performed at Puddingmedia’s servers in Fremont, California, not on the user’s computer.
Mr Maislos stressed that the calls are not stored in any way, nor does Puddingmedia keep a record of which keywords were picked up from a particular call.
The model is similar to that of Google’s Gmail, which shows ads based on scans of the user’s e-mail correspondence. That idea initially raised privacy concerns, but those have abated as users have become comfortable with the system.
Eventually Mr Maislos hopes to be able to expand the service to cell phones. In that case, ads would pop up on the caller’s screen after the call.
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