Volio, a startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz (among others) and led by Nuance founder Ron Croen, launched last month with the promise of allowing apps to create a conversational experience with their users. Now it’s adding a social dimension with the launch of Voliocasts.
Founder and CEO Ron Croen laid out his vision for me earlier this week: “If you put a real human image on a computer, you can deliver something that feels real to the user, like an actual interactive experience. You get a lot of the engagement that you have with the human being.”
The first app to use Volio’s technology is Talk To Esquire, which allows the magazine’s readers to engage with Esquire columnists. What users are really seeing is a set of prerecorded videos, but they can actually talk to the, and received advice that’s customized based on their answers — for example, fashion director Nick Sullivan can walk you through what you should wear on a given evening, based on things like who you’re going out with and your affinity for formal versus casual clothes.
When I tried it out, I definitely got the feeling that I was being guided through a conversation, because you’re usually presented with very specific options in terms of answers, but on the bright side you’re not likely to say something that the app can’t handle.
With a Voliocast, apps can now record both sides of the interaction and edit them into a single video, which users can share on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
I tried it out using a demo version of the Esquire app, and given my monosyllabic answers, I’m not sure the results were terribly entertaining. It seems that if app developers want users to create Voliocasts, they’ll want to design experiences with more interaction in mind.
Croen said many of these videos could be entertaining: “There will be user generated content that’s creative, sort of on the order of karaoke, even though it’s not karaoke as such.” On the other hand, the videos could have a significant business or advertising purpose, like recording customer testimonials. (Nuance, another company that Croen founded, recently announced its own initiative in conversational advertising.)
He also emphasized that apps will only record users with their permission. He also said it’s too early to announce any of the publishers who will be using Voliocasts, but when the company announces its next set of partners, “You can expect that they’ll take advantage of the Voliocast capability.”
Voliocast was announced on-stage at DEMO Mobile.