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Audiopoint ‘Links’ Internet and Phone with VoiceListen to this article in TTS, powered by Loquendo

Personalized Voice Portal allows customized access to EarthLink's news and information using voice commands.
By Leonard Klie - Posted Apr 18, 2008
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Feeding off the popularity of its Email by Phone service that uses text-to-speech to read email to subscribers, Internet service provider EarthLink recently expanded its deal with Audiopoint to also give subscribers voice access to Web-based news and information over the phone.

Audiopoint’s offering allows Earthlink subscribers who sign up for the service to receive news and other information, such as sports scores, weather, and stock quotes, in real time through their phone. Through the same number they’ve been using to receive their email messages (1-800-READ-MAIL), they can now receive customized Web-based information based on information stored in a preferences folder they create. Keypad interfaces are replaced with natural-language voice commands and the visual display is replaced with text-to-speech translation that reads the information to the user from any telephone connection without requiring additional hardware. The service is powered by speech engines from Nuance Communications.

And because the service provides real-time information, content is constantly updated and refreshed. "Literally, every time someone calls in, it’s different content because it’s all real time," explains Brian Lichorowic, CEO and president of Audiopoint.

EarthLink and Audiopoint have offered the Email by Phone option for the past five years. The success of that service has demonstrated that people want access to a wider range of information on the go, according to Lichorowic. "The demand is growing for powerful new communications services as a strategic way to enhance customer service and build a competitive edge," he says.

The service, he adds, is "not trying to replace the computer terminal, just provide an additional way to access information."

"Earthlink's Email by Phone with enhanced news and information services will allow our subscribers to access customized content from any phone just as they can from browsing the Internet," Craig Forman, EarthLink’s executive vice president and chief product officer, said in a statement. "As part of our commitment to providing a positive Internet customer experience, the continuing partnership with Audiopoint allows us to provide our subscribers with the flexibility of anytime, anywhere access to all of their EarthLink services."

The service officially launched at the end of March, but EarthLink has just started to market it. Though initial marketing efforts will be targeted to new EarthLink customers, the service is also available to existing subscribers.

Using an online enrollment form, EarthLink subscribers may sign up for this $4.95 per-month service at http://www.earthlink.net/dialup/extras/ebp/.

Callers currently log into the service and are asked for a user ID and password to gain access. Audiopoint is working now on a solution that will use voice authentication instead and hopes to roll that out later in the year. It also is looking at the possibility of advertiser support, with ads, promotions, or rewards programs that can be tailored around the users’ preferences and ZIP codes.

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