NEW YORK (06/29/2000) - Soon, you won't need to boot up your PC to get information from the Internet; you'll be able to just say, "Hey Anita," instead.
Coming this fall, Hey Anita Inc. is a voice portal service that will allow you to obtain basic information and conduct transactions via the Internet by dialing 800-44-ANITA. The services are being demonstrated at PC Expo here this week.
You can connect with Hey Anita from any phone, whether it's your new digital smart phone or that old rotary phone you're embarrassed to admit you still use.
Hey Anita uses Speechworks International Inc. speech recognition technology.
Its services will include stock quotes, weather forecasts, traffic conditions, news headlines, sports scores, horoscopes, a soap opera update, and movie reviews and show times. Hey Anita will also offer personal information management features, including an address book, to-do lists, a calendar, and access to Web-based e-mail.
Hey Anita is free to consumers, but you'll have to listen to some ads. They'll typically be targeted, brief spots that offer more information on a topic. The company plans a limited release of the service in late summer and expects it to be available nationwide in the fall.
Just Call and Ask
To use the service, you call the toll-free number and say "Hey Anita!" (The demonstrations given here all involved an extremely happy caller--presumably Anita responds even to voices that don't sound like cheerleaders.) When Anita asks, "What can I do for you?" you can respond with a number of different commands, such as "stocks" or "movies." If you hesitate, Anita recites your options. Once you select a topic, you drill down to get information. For example, once you select "movies," you can pick either a movie title or a theater to find a show time.
Hey Anita will also support certain transactions. You may be able to order a pizza from your favorite restaurant--and Anita will remember which restaurants you like and what you usually order. Hey Anita will add this service through partnerships with restaurants, and its developers expect to offer other electronic-commerce transactions, such as buying books or CDs.
Hey Anita will also let you make phone calls to contacts in your address book, although it may impose a time limit on long-distance calls. You simply call Hey Anita, select a contact, and tell Anita to place the call. After your conversation, you simply say "Hey Anita" to return to the service.
The service is not meant to replace a PC, says Mark Willingham, Hey Anita's senior director of sales and marketing. It is intended to complement the way you now use the Internet, letting you access information even when you can't get to a PC. It's also designed to offer a more personalized interaction than the typical Internet experience, he says. He wants users to think of Anita as "their best friend who knows what they like and what they need."
You don't have to give Hey Anita any personal information in order to use its basic services, but the e-mail and PIM functions require some information. You can enter this either at the Hey Anita Web site or through the phone service.
Once you provide personal information, Hey Anita will recognize you when you call.