Callers to MovieFone, the nation’s largest movie guide and ticketing service, will soon be able to get movie listings and tickets faster and easier than ever by simply speaking into the phone. MovieFone, Inc. announced it will use speech recognition technology from Lucent Technologies to enhance its popular interactive service, known by familiar local phone numbers such as 777-FILM.
MovieFone is one of the largest interactive phone applications in the world, providing more than 100 million callers a year with a complete directory of movies, theaters, and showtimes, and the ability to buy tickets. Since MovieFone’s inception in 1989, callers have made selections using the buttons on their touch-tone key pad. The enhanced service, set to launch in New York in early 1999, enables moviegoers to select a movie by saying the title into the phone. Similarly, callers can enter other information like their zip code or credit card number by speaking into the phone. Callers who do not wish to speak their selections still have the option of entering them using their touch-tone keypad. The New York launch will be followed by a rollout to more of the 35 major cities MovieFone serves.
Letting moviegoers use their own voice to speak to MovieFone is a twist, since the well-known voice callers hear when they call MovieFone (e.g. “Hello and welcome to MovieFone…”) is a frequently imitated part of pop culture. The voice of Mr. MovieFone has been parodied on television shows from Saturday Night Live to The Simpsons to Late Night with David Letterman. In fact, in one of the most memorable episodes of Seinfeld, when Kramer’s phone number is changed to one that is just one digit away from 777-FILM, he is forced to spend the whole episode imitating Mr. MovieFone and providing unsuspecting callers with movie information.
According to Tom Jarecki, Sr. VP Operations for MovieFone, “Seinfeld’s Kramer said it best. When he couldn’t understand the selections callers were making with the buttons on their telephones, he asked, ‘Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?’ Using Lucent’s speech recognition technology, MovieFone callers will soon be able to do just that.”
He continued, “MovieFone has always used innovative technology to make moviegoing more convenient for consumers. Lucent’s Speech Solutions will enable us to reinforce that principle by presenting a more fun and entertaining service for moviegoers while saving them time. Lucent’s long history in speech recognition gives us great confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the new system.” Designed by Bell Labs, the solution includes Lucent’s high-density speech recognition board and software to support advanced speech applications.
“Our goal is to make speech services ubiquitous by making them useful to the vast majority of consumers,” said Daniel Furman, president of Lucent Speech Solutions. “Working with MovieFone is an important step toward that goal.”
Lucent’s Speech Solution handles wide variations of voice pitches and accents, and its high capacity supports large vocabularies, easily recognizing specific movie titles. With the capability of recognizing spoken numerals, as well as different credit card types (Visa, MasterCard, and others), the speech technology also will be able to quickly process credit card transactions used to purchase theater tickets. The heart of the new technology is Lucent’s high-density speech recognition board, which provides an economical solution by supporting a large number of simultaneous conversations in a small space.
Today’s announcement with MovieFone adds to Lucent’s large base of customers using network-based speech systems, processing millions of speech transactions each week. In addition to scalable speech engines that include both hardware and software components for Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Text-to-Speech (TTS), Lucent Speech Solutions include a full complement of speech applications. These applications, such as voice dialing, automated attendant, personal assistant, e-mail reading, and information access, all use 0natural language user interfaces.
MovieFone, Inc. is the leading media company focusing on the moviegoing audience. The Company’s primary products, the MovieFone interactive telephone service (e.g. 777-FILM) and [Movielink.com] on the web, comprise the largest movie listing guide and ticketing service in the country, providing millions of moviegoers each week with a complete, free directory of movies, showtimes, theater locations and the ability to purchase tickets in advance. The Company, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has received over 300 million calls and logged over 35 million online users. The Company’s services cover more than 14,500 movie screens in 33 cities around the nation, which account for over 60% of the nation’s movie attendance. MovieFone, Inc. is a public company with offices in New York and Los Angeles.
Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill, New Jersey, designs, builds and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, data networking systems, business telephone systems and microelectronics components. Bell Laboratories is the research and development arm for the company. For more information on Lucent Technologies, visit and [www.lucent.com/ideas2/innovations/lsps] for Lucent Speech Solutions.