Need Directions? Give Your Thumbs a Rest

Web search engine Ask.com yesterday introduced free voice-activated capabilities to its Mobile Directions service for Web-enabled mobile phones.

With the new service, users of Ask.com’s mobile Web site, m.ask.com, can choose a "Click to Speak" link on the site. By clicking on that link, users are prompted to speak their location and their desired destination, either by specific address or closest intersection. Within seconds, they receive a text message with a link to directions that can be viewed as a traditional list or in a turn-by-turn format. An additional option lets them switch between driving or walking routes.

The service is nationwide and works with any Web-enabled mobile phone, regardless of manufacturer or carrier.

"Voice input is one more way Ask.com Mobile helps searchers find exactly what they are looking for faster and easier," Doug Leeds, senior vice president of product management at Ask.com, said in a statement. "The new ‘Click to Speak’ service is quick, free and accurate, and makes getting driving or walking directions a breeze."

The voice component on m.ask.com is powered by Dial Directions, which offers its own nationwide location-based service to users who call DIRECTIONS (347-328-4667).

The voice component of both m.ask.com and DIRECTIONS offers users an alternative to typing their information on their mobile phones’ keypads. "There are a lot of mobile applications available, but a lot of people are not using them. People hate typing. It takes time, is prone to errors, and, especially if they’re driving, is dangerous," says Amit Desai, co-founder and chief product officer at Dial Directions.

Dial Directions has seen interest steadily building for its own DIRECTIONS service since it was first introduced in a limited rollout in New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area in July and expanded nationally in November. Since then, the company has added to the service, giving users the option to find a particular business by saying a company name, such as Starbucks or Home Depot. The application "asks users for their current location, and gives them directions to the closest store," Desai explains.

Users can also add their own events, such as parties, by logging onto Dial Directions’ Web site and following a few prompts to register their event, so that callers need only say the event name to get directions there.

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