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.

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Dabitch's picture

That's way beyond ad creepy.

Allan1's picture

If you look at the full article, you'll notice that it's not quite perfected:

That is, if the system works. It's notoriously difficult for computers to recognize speech. A test of Puddingmedia's beta software was a mixed success: Relevant ads appeared when this reporter talked about restaurants and computers, but the software was oddly insistent that he should seek a career as a social worker, showing multiple ads and links pointing to that field.

"Sometimes crazy things pop up. It actually enriches the conversation, which is very cool," said Ariel Maislos, chief executive of Puddingmedia.

In other words, this behavior is a feature, not a bug!

Erica Johnson's picture

I feel that this goes beyond advertising and crosses over the line to "big brother." I'd have a very hard time having a conversation, with the thoughts that "someone" is overhearing what I'm saying. I understand that it's software, and not necessarily a human listening, but I'd hate to even think that anyone/anything is listening.