Voice of the Future.
Want to know where the nearest Starbucks is, but don’t feel like taking out your phone to search for it? Well, now you can simply ask your phone, thanks to new voice recognition technology Google’s added to its search software for the Apple iPhone. Simply place the handset to your ear, and you can ask virtually any question. The sound will be converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which interpret the words and then pass them to Google’s search engine. The search results will be displayed in a matter of seconds on a fast wireless network. The New York Times points out that such voice recognition technology “has long been the supreme goal of artificial intelligence researchers looking for ways to make man-machine interactions more natural.” Incidentally, Google is not the first to try it. Both Microsoft and Yahoo already offer voice services for mobile phones. According to the Times, Microsoft’s Tellme service returns information in specific categories like directions, maps and movies, while Yahoo’s oneSearch with Voice is more flexible than Google’s offering but does not appear to be as accurate. That said, the Google system is far from perfect, the Times says, often returning queries that appear as “gibberish.” When asked, Google execs declined to say how often the service returns accurate results, but they believe it’s accurate enough so that people who want to avoid typing in queries would find it useful
Online TV Viewing Increasing.
As ratings for the Big Four TV networks continue to decline, more people are watching network TV shows online. According to Nielsen Online, the networks saw an average of 155 percent month-over-month growth in online video viewing in September. (Nielsen did not include the CW in its estimates.) The increase isn’t necessarily surprising since September saw the season premieres of many popular and new TV shows, but Nielsen Online reports that interest in the presidential election as well as coverage of the financial meltdown also boosted online video viewing for the networks. NBC.com grew the most, up 312 percent month-over-month, followed by Fox and ABC.com, with 165 percent and 105 percent growth, respectively. CBS.com only saw a 38 percent increase in unique viewers from August but was second in the number of minutes viewers spent on the web site at 48 minutes. Fox Broadcasting was first with 114 minutes, ABC.com saw 45.5 minutes and NBC.com 35 minutes. NBC.com also led in unique viewers with 5.6 million, followed by ABC.com at 5.2 million, CBS at 3.3 million and Fox at 1.4 million. Collectively, the Big Four networks’ average adults 18-49 rating has slipped 14 percent this season, while total viewers are down 10 percent.
Apple’s iPhone 3G and its game-heavy AppStore may well push mobile gaming into the mainstream, Ad Age reports, in much the same way that the Web brought casual gaming to the masses. The trade pub points out that it wouldn’t be very difficult for the likes of Apple and Google to develop an in-game ad network for their mobile phones. Google, for example, already owns an in-game network. Microsoft, which owns the in-game ad network Massive Incorporated, is also rumored to be working on its own phone. Sony, which has the PSP portable gaming device and the Sony-Ericsson line of phones, is also rumored to be working on a PSP phone. It has its own in-house in-game advertising team and has partnered with ad networks like IGA. “The thing with casual gaming is that it hits a much bigger demographic than console games that just tend to attract younger men, so now with mobile gaming you have an even greater potential for generating ad revenue, more than PC games ever could. More people have phones than PCs, and they’re using them more often and with more [downtime and] opportunities for gaming,” said Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle Group. A recent study from NPD Group corroborates those claims, finding that smartphone users play games more often than they use business-related functions. According to the study, playing games was the most increased use of the phones over the last three months.
Strangest Media Opportunity of the Week: Tubular.
When we think of out-of-home signage, we usually think of free-standing signs, but some of the most creative campaigns take advantage of existing structures that folks normally don’t pay much attention to. There was the cigar store campaign that put what looked like oversized cigar bands on wooden telephone poles, making them look like giant stogies standing on end. And just recently a campaign for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign put an Obama icon on signs alerting motorists to traffic signals. Here’s another one: A bank in Colorado is putting its message on light poles. The campaign, which is now running in the Front Range area of the state, is for FirstBank’s mobile banking service, with the idea that customers can bank anywhere. What the bank’s agency, TDA Advertising & Design, came up with were graphics that wrap around the poles in a way that makes them look like the pneumatic tubes found at drive-up banking installations. A cutout shows the capsule that’s used to transfer deposits to the bank. Below is the message: “Mobile banking. Available everywhere.”