Ad creep into Internet Calls

A new service, Puddingmedia, aims to use voice recognition technology to help create ad-supported Internet phone service.

The software listens to the calls, then displays ads on the callers' computer screens based on what's being talked about.

For instance, a caller talking about going for dinner might see ads to local restaurants and restaurant review sites, while someone pondering whether to buy a new computer might see ads for computer stores. Relevant unsponsored links also appear.

On Monday, the Silicon Valley-based company is launching a public trial of the software on its Web site, Visitors will be able to place free calls to U.S. and Canadian phone numbers from their computers using headsets or microphones. The phone numbers are entered via a Web browser, which is also where the ads and links show up.

The company's aim is not to be an independent provider of ad-financed Internet phone calls, but to license its speech-recognition service to other companies that use Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. Puddingmedia said it was talking to several possible partners but can't name any yet.