If email is first in line for disruption, messaging has to be second. A new company launching out of TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 has a fresh take on our most favoritest form of communication.
Talkz asks you to stop typing and start talking. Or type. Or doodle. Or share music. Really, anything you want. “We’re combining the benefits of SMS and Voice Messaging/Push-to-Talk in one”, says founder Heath Ahrens.
It’s a messaging app that offers every type of sharing under the sun, but the really exciting part is voice messaging. Ahrens says, “by combining voice and text in every message, we are providing a faster, more convenient messaging experience”.
In every message sent on Talkz, both text and voice is displayed. Of course, you can choose to use your own voice recording, or you can choose to use a celebrity voice clone to get your message across. You can send this to one friend, multiple friends, or share your Talkz on your social networks.
At launch, the only available celebrity voice clones are Obama, George W. Bush, and Romney, but the team is working to build that out.
Obviously, it’s easy to put both voice and text into a message when you speak your message — all it takes is some solid voice-to-text transcription. But how does Talkz replicate your voice when you type out a message instead of voice recording it?
Talkz actually starts to learn your voice over time. After a while, you’ll be able to type out a message and Talkz will not only send the text but send a clone of your own voice speaking that message to the recipient. It’s wild.[gallery columns="4" ids="809393,809395,809396,809398,809399,809400,809401,809402"]
But voice and text aren’t the only things we share in messages. We send links, pictures, song suggestions, videos, and everything else under the sun. Talkz is ready for that, offering options to send music previews through iTunes (which link direct to the iTunes store), doodles, and even share your location.
You can also send pictures, with options to search the web, send the last photo taken, take the picture on the spot, or choose one from your library. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, users have the option to group chat as well.
Overall, it seems to be one of the most complete messaging apps available, but it also marks an important shift in the way we communicate. With the explosion of text messaging, many believe voice communication is on the way out. But when you think about efficiency in communication, voice is the fastest way to transfer information.
But voice isn’t always convenient. With Talkz, you always have the option of a reliable voice-powered conversation, with the fall-back alternative of text available at any time.
So how will Talkz make money?
“We believe Voice Cloning will do for celebrities what ringtones did for music labels,” said Ahrens. “We are already in conversations with numerous celebrities and brands to create Voice Clones, in addition to Personal and Presidential Voice Clones already available in the app. We are selling these Voice Clones as in-app purchases within Talkz or as branded advertising.”
The app is available now in the App Store, with an Android version in the works.
Q: The thing that separates apps in this space isn’t features. It’s about being viral. What do you have to differentiate and pick up user?
A: We had one of the best applications on BlackBerry years ago. Our core technology background is in speech and text-to-sppech, so messaging is much easier for us than speech.
Q: What’s to stop Voxer from doing this?
A: If it was easy to do Voxer would already have speech. We team with a company called iSpeech, and Voxer would have to partner with a Nuance or someone to do it. And our voice clone technology is done by no one but iSpeech, with whom we have an exclusive partnership.
Q: I can’t predict the success of the messaging space. You just have to launch it and see what happens. For every one that’s successful there are fifty at the bottom of the App Store.
A: We’re working on celebrity voices model to kickstart usage. These celebrities get 30 percent of any in-app purchase so they have an incentive as well.
Q: Do you have interest with celebrities yet.
A: We’re in talks with them and they’re very interested.
Q: How much traction do you have so far.
A: It’s day one. We saw 2,000 downloads after seeding 50 people with the app.
A: We have relationships with RIM and Microsoft and other app stores will be featuring this application.
Q: Do you have a strategy of pulling away users of other messaging apps?
A: One of the best things about Talkz is that you don’t need the app to receive messages. So it’s instantly viral, even if you’re a user of another messaging app.