RealTime IT News

AOL Enhances Moviefone, Launches Concierge Service

America Online Inc. Tuesday announced enhancements to its interactive Moviefone service as well as the debut of "Ask the Concierge," a free online program that offers personal, real-time assistance from live, local concierge agents.

AOL Moviefone, which offers film information and ticketing via telephone and the Web, Monday added speech recognition technology to the service. As a result callers can select a movie or enter additional information, such as their zip code or credit card number, by speaking into the phone. The heart of the new technology is a high-density speech recognition board, which provides an economical solution by supporting a large number of simultaneous conversations in a small space.

The technology was developed by Bell Labs, the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies (LU).

"People today are more mobile than ever and are demanding instant access to information," said Dan Furman, president of Lucent Speech Solutions.

"Moviefone's latest enhancement is a great example of how technology can be used to give callers the information they need quickly and easily."

"Ask the Concierge" is powered by VIPdesk.com, an Internet concierge service and AOL's Digital City, the company's collection of city guides. The service presently is offered in Washington, D.C., with plans to offer it to additional markets over the next several months.

"Ask the Concierge" provides "insider" city information, such as hotels and accommodations, restaurants, entertainment, sports and recreation, shopping and services, around the house services and an "At Your Service" category that captures anything else that might be requested.

The live, local concierge agents use their knowledge and expertise regarding specific geographic areas, hometown communities and regional content to help fulfill requests. The service also uses a centralized team of concierge agents to handle requests on a national level.

Users are offered three ways to request a service and find information: e-mail, live one-on-one chats and instant access to a knowledge database of frequently asked requests. After a user submits a request to Digital City's "Ask the Concierge," a concierge agent goes to work fulfilling the request and delivers a personalized response while the user waits.

"Our live concierge agent network concept catapults the Internet personal service industry to the next logical level," says Mary Naylor, CEO of VIPdesk.com.

"People want to connect with real people when they want to find relevant information and take it a step further - getting things done. We've combined that idea with the speed and efficiency of the Internet to help launch a new real-time personal service assistant infrastructure. Our partnership with Digital City will deliver this service dynamically in the best possible way."