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New Apps Let Users Talk to Potential Clients or Celebs

Yesterday, Chicago-based learning technologies firm Knowledgeshift released two new applications that incorporate interactive voice response (IVR) technologies from Ifbyphone, a hosted voice application and platform company.

The first application, Mobi-Role-Play, is a multimodal application that allows users to engage with a simulated avatar through handheld content and voice interactions via a cell phone or BlackBerry. Knowledgeshift is targeting the application at the sales prospecting and customer-service arms of enterprises. It expects that Mobi-Role-Play will help employees improve their customer relations skills by simulating customer scenarios they might encounter on the job.

When the application is used, it records the conversation and then emails it as an MP3 to Knowledgeshift or another predefined email address for review or coaching. The file is usually sent within two minutes. In the future, Knowledgeshift hopes to incorporate a responsive system that adjusts to a user’s replies, but for now, Mobi-Role-Play is built around a static track with tones signaling when a user should respond. When the conversation is finished, it is played back for the user to decide whether to keep it or re-record.

Mobi-Role-Play is currently monetized through the commission and production of custom vignette scripts, which are written specifically for a given customer. The script is then preformed in-character by Knowledgeshift’s stable of voice-over talent. An automated Web interface that allows users to write their own scripts is currently being developed.

Knowledgeshift’s second offering Mobi-Ad-Lib is built around a similar framework, but targets a drastically different mobile user audience: young consumers. The application allows them to cobble together a “mini story” through a series of interactive menus and prerecorded messages contained within a template. A mini story is a kind of sound-based Mad Libs where users fill blanks in prerecorded conversations with their own voice. Knowledgeshift intends to populate its “Ad-Libs” with celebrities, political figures, athletes, fictional characters, and so forth.

In one scenario described by Nancy Munro, CEO of Knowledgeshift, Mobi-Ad-Lib could simulate a scenario where the user, pretending to be a new rookie in the NFL has a conversation with an ESPN reporter.

Knowledgeshift is currently beta testing additional functionalities that will allow the files produced to be shared.

“[We’re] picturing the Facebook crowd or the social networking crowd. Having six kids, I know that they just eat this stuff up,” Munro says. “The idea behind it is to create a Web site so that once that file is created you can share it with your friends or post it to your Facebook page, building in that whole kind of social networking functionality.”

Knowledgeshift is hoping to make money from Mobi-Ad-Lib through partnerships with other enterprises such as Penguin Group’s Mad Libs, advertising, or charging users a low per-file cost, like $1.99.

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