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Buzzworks & SearchtoPhone : Same Apps in two different parts of the world

Posted by tggokul on August 17, 2007

I know what Buzzworks are trying to do, since they demoed their product in Proto.in. I have been intending to write more on their product but never got around to it. Today GigaOm has a piece on a company called SearchtoPhone and once I read what they are upto, I thought it was time I wrote about Buzzworks.

Basically, this is Buzzwork’s premise. You want to reach one of your neighbourhood services but you don’t know whom to call. So you call up a number and do a voice search ( through open source speech recognition) and the centralized software searches for the most likely candidate and calls them up for you and you get to talk to the guy whose service you want to use. But from what I see, SearchtoPhone is more or less similar except for one bit that the author neatly summarizes

Using voice recognition and knowledge of your location, Search-To-Phone determines merchants or service providers who might be able to help. These businesses receive calls from Search-To-Phone and listen to your recorded job request, decide if they want to talk to you further, and place a call to you via Search-To-Phone. Your phone number remains private.

Interesting to see two companies in entirely different parts of the world coming up with similar ideas at the same time. Had they been big companies, this is when the litigation would start :) Of the two, SearchtoPhone has a slighter edge because the caller maintains his privacy. Having said that, it shouldn’t be too long for Buzzworks to incorporate this feature as well.

I don’t know about what powers SearchToPhone’s software. But in case of Buzzworks it is open source all the way ( Asterisk, openSER and oopen source Voice recognition software). So I am going to take an educated guess that Buzzworks would be the cheaper solution.

The problems I see either of them facing is that they have to work with the service providers and that requires lot of time and patience. On the technology front,  I am not a big fan of Voice recognition software ( yes, that includes leader Nuance as well) and the accuracy is not something I would bet my life on. Buzzworks would have more problems because they are powered by open source ( not sure how stable that would be) and secondly, the dialects/languages in India are so much and I would be surprised if accuracy is more than 20%.

Two companies that I surely will be following for the next few months.

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6 Responses to “Buzzworks & SearchtoPhone : Same Apps in two different parts of the world”

  1. Dear Gokul,

    Thanks for the kind words, my 2 pieces as the founder of Buzzworks (we’re going in for a name change in the next few days but this one is good too!)

    Quick answers to your questions:

    01. Litigation: Since this is purely a software play (plus we’re open source to start with) there’s no potential for litigation. Software is not a patentable subject outside of the US so my part time, unpaid lawyer friend can rest for now.

    02. Privacy: We maintain calling party privacy on all calls. We have also added SMS as a feature since the proto demo. Let’s say you don’t want to talk to a plumber right now, the system will push an SMS to you with the list of plumbers in your area too so that you can call them when required.

    03. Cost: We aim to be the cheapest, pay per lead media solution in the country. I can’t reveal commercials but suffice to say that the pay per lead cost will be in the low 2 digit INR range. Plus signup is free.

    04. ASR issues: This came up in proto as well. Let me first say that Sphinx is not perfect. We’re getting 70% accuracy now. There exist carrier class ASR’s with much better recognition rates and provision for dialects and accents, which we will go with on launch. ASR is more a question of dimensioning the risk (one word at a time) and making sure that you save the call (through a call center) so that the customer gets what he wants with minimum fuss. This we have budgeted for.

    Would love for you to check out a (now working) demo if you have the time.

    Cheers,

    VC

  2. tggokul said

    Karthic,

    Would love to see a demo. How do we go about doing that.

    Gokul

  3. Kand said

    I learnt of your blog through Ken Camp’s blog. Keep up the good work.

    Today, if we call GOOG411 for a service, it does voice recognition, and provides a list of businesses of the given name, and lets you connect to the business you select. Buzzworks and SearchtoPhone both seem to extend this. Do they understand a category like plumber, restaurants? Do they parse long natural long sentences, unlike Google? (Of course, they provide addtional calling options – you or the business calls back, SMS etc).

    It may not be too much for Google or a phone company to add this functionality or buy ;) one of these companies?

    Kand

  4. Vivek said

    Gokul,

    Where is Buzzworks based out of ? Perhaps we could invite them for our next Telecom Professionals Group meeting.

  5. tggokul said

    Vivek,

    I believe they are Hyderabad based, though Karthic ( Founder) is from Chennai. Don’t know whether he would be around for this.

    I know Karthic reads this blog. So Karthic, if you end up seeing this message let us know whether you are willing to join the Telecom Professionals Group in Chennai and I will send you an invite.

    Gokul

  6. These days, I just call JustDial in Bangalore. Technology aside, how will BuzzWorks or such services better the human-powered services like JustDial?

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