Voice technology provider VoiceSignal and directory services company INFONXX are launching an “embedded” voice-driven local search product for mobile phones called “VSearch.” Available starting in March, the two companies described the service in their announcement this morning:
VoiceSignal will provide the speech recognition and application software and INFONXX will provide content and search support. The product will deliver to consumers a wide range of innovative information services including access to traffic, weather information, cinema times, stock quotes, horoscopes and sports scores
The technology will be embedded into mass market handsets made by the world’s leading OEMs, with Samsung Electronics positioned to be first to market in Europe with the revolutionary new platform.
A less expansive but similar offering is the recent TellMe by Mobile release. Currently INFONXX operates the consumer-facing directory assistance (DA) offering 118118 in the UK, which last year launched (together with MIVA) an interesting and, apparently, successful PPText ad program. (That will be the subject of a later post.)
VSearch will be ad supported. Accordingly, it loosely falls into the category of ad-supported DA now dominated in the U.S. by Jingle Networks (1800-Free-411), but also occupied by AT&T’s new 1800-YellowPages and several others.
I had a relatively long conversation yesterday about the state of mobile marketing with iCrossing’s Noah Elkin. We were discussing adoption trends and the still-many barriers to mobile Internet and mobile search usage. There’s still a great deal of pain involved in conducting mobile searches, notwithstanding some rapid improvements in the mobile sites and applications being offered by Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. We also discussed the challenges the mobile carriers face in building their own search and monetization platforms.
But while everyone’s focused on adoption of the “mobile Internet” (text is separate), it’s quite possible that these voice-based mobile search/free DA approaches will have mass-market appeal and become the locus of adoption in the near term for most consumers. They of course are imperfect too, but they’re familiar and accessible to people from their long history of experiences with traditional DA, which currently represents many billions of “searches” annually.