365 Will Launch First Big European Voice Portal

[London, ENGLAND] Digital media company 365 Corporation plc
announced Tuesday that it plans to launch Europe’s first
comprehensive voice portal, complete with a voice-operated
unified messaging system.

Codenamed Guardian Angel, the service is designed to
serve not only consumers but businesses and other organizations.

365, which is probably still best-known to U.K. Internet
users for its lively football coverage, has partnered with
Philips Speech Processing, Cable & Wireless plc, and
Brooktrout Software to develop the new portal.

Using the latest text-to-speech technology the portal
will let the user send e-mail by voice. It will also read
incoming e-mail back to the user over the phone.

But that’s not all. Guardian Angel goes beyond e-mail to
let users update their diary and phonebook, pick up voicemail,
set up conference calls and forward their calls to any number.

Dan Thompson, chief executive of 365, said the new portal
represented a major strategic move for his company.

“In partnering with such household names as Philips and
Cable & Wireless and by deploying our interactive voice
expertise and our unique content via our telephony infrastructure,
we believe that we are extremely well placed to develop a
leading position in what will be a vast market,” said
Thompson.

365 and Philips are not saying if they expect there to be
any downside to the technology they are introducing. Surveys
have shown that the switch to e-mail by businesses during
recent years has increased the stresses on employees, overloading
them with information, junk mail, and the constant fear of
losing vital data.

Anyone who has tried the current generation of voice
recognition systems will know that they are not 100 percent
accurate — although they are impressive in their ability
to recognize the user’s voice once they have been carefully
trained.

365 has established partnerships with bookmaker William Hill,
Domino’s Pizza and Teleflorist with the aim of allowing
users to make commercial transactions by voice commands. The
service will be extended to other applications, such as
stock-broking, event ticketing and travel.

Will the interface to the new services be equivalent to
the WAP-style interfaces that people find so difficult to
use? Or will it be so well-designed that the new voice
technology helps make communication more convenient,
more accurate and more efficient?

We shall have to wait and see. The Guardian Angel service
will be in beta test next month and a full commercial
launch is anticipated for March 2001.

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