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, https://www.ThePudding.com. 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.