Ask.com offers free voice-activated location services while Cha-Cha lets you text questions to get human-aided answers.
Ask.com and ChaCha Search on Jan. 3 introduced free search services to make it easier for users to find what theyre looking for from their mobile devices.
Ask.com has added a voice activation utility called Click to Speak to its Ask.com Mobile Directions service. A first of its kind among search engines, Click to Speak lets people speak their location and desired destination to receive directions on their Web-based mobile phones and handhelds.
The idea is to free users from the burden of typing addresses, which is a big bugbear for mobile phone users tired of having to type their way through the wireless world.
Freeing up users from using their hands will eventually have great value if every mobile service is made this way. Of course, it could also prove more distracting because users will be speaking aloud for every command, which could make morning train commutes rough.
Click here to read more about Ask.coms AskEraser tool.
No downloads are required. Ask.com said in a statement that users of the Directions service on Ask.com Mobile will now see a new "Click to Speak" option. Upon clicking this tab, consumers are prompted to speak their location and their desired destination, either by specific address or closest intersection.
Within seconds, they will receive a text message with a link to directions that can be viewed in either traditional list or turn-by-turn step format, with an additional option to switch between driving or walking routes.
Ask.com, of Oakland, Calif., is using technology from voice activation and location-based service provider Dial Directions to bring Click to Speak to fruition.
Click to Speak is one of several steps Ask.com is taking to mark itself as a differentiator from rivals Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which command an overwhelming 95 percent of the search market. The last step was the Dec. 12 launch of AskEraser, a privacy tool to let users delete their data from Ask.com.
ChaCha, of Carmel, Ind., meanwhile unveiled a trial service that allows users to text questions from their cell phone to 242242, which is ChaCha on a phone keypad.
Like Ask.coms Click to Speak, ChaChas text answer service is also unique because answers are sent by a live person, or a ChaCha guide. ChaCha has trained 40,000 guides in the United States and 5,000 of them are available at any given time in a day.
One of the interesting aspects of this service, aside from the fact that you essentially get a human at your beck and call, is that users can type in slang or even misspell words in their queries without fear of stumping the search engine. The human, ChaCha hopes, will figure out what you mean.
Users can ask for sports scores, movie times, airline delays, weather reports, or local search services such as the cheapest gas and shopping and pharmacy locations, as well as the names and phone numbers for local businesses and residences.
A ChaCha spokesperson provided an example of a text question and answer, which arrived two minutes after the query, here
To spice up the new text search service, ChaCha will be the official text answers service of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Attendees of the independent film festival can text in questions about not only screenings but length of wait lines, as well as festival events and local restaurants.
Currently available as a free trial, the text answer service will eventually be offered in unlimited plans through a monthly subscription fee in cooperation with all wireless carriers, the spokesperson told eWEEK.
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