Ok, now let me share the email Greg received:
Here's an interesting piece of tip. As you know, Google Android aka Dream Phone is a mobile phone platform based on the Linux operating system and developed by the Open Handset Alliance.
There have been many rumors about what it will ultimately look like, with several parodies of it circling YouTube, especially this one:
Even though that's just a cute play on Google Ads, I've stumbled across something that might actually be a working demo of Google Android in action here:
I decided to check out the URL http://126.96.36.199/asr/. Sure enough it had two fields - one for entering in your phone number (From) and another field for the destination number (To). Further, the top of the page boldly claims "Google dream phone, android, gphone... whatever its called. Here's a live demo! demo1.0" I was skeptical to say the least, but figured I'd try this anyway.
I entered in my cell phone and another number and it first connected my cell phone and then connected the second leg of the call. Once connected, I was able to pretend to have a conversation and ask questions such as "what are we doing tonight?" and then the automated speech recognition would detect this and that say "How bout a movie. Google Presents National Treasure. Book of Secrets. Now playing at Century Cinema 16 located at 1500 North Shoreline Boulevard. Mountain View, California". (here's a WAV recording of that portion of the call)
This demo will only work with US telephone numbers only. I also noticed that some phone numbers worked and others did not - there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which phone numbers worked. So if it doesn't work, try another phone numner. The only phrases recognized in this demo are:
- What are we doing tonight?
- Weather for Mountain View
- I'm very hungry!
- Want to have a drink?
The examples they gave for speech phrases the demo would recognize often were based in Mountain View, the headquarters of Google, such as "weather for Mountain View". Even asking "what are we doing tonight" was answered with movie times for Mountain View. Trying so hard to associate Google's HQ location made me even more skeptical this was legit. Speech recognition and the ability to conference in two legs of a call is nothing new. But just who was sending a fraudulent tip to Greg? Let us continue the investigation...
Since this didn't seem like the speech-rec app I just tested, I then tried one IP address lower - 188.8.131.52 and the page did a quick meta refresh redirect to a site owned by LignUp. I landed at CodeLign, a ‘sandbox’ site that gives you access to some of LignUp’s call control and media control web services and which is essentially a SIP-based "telephony middleware" platform. You can make a call from a web page as well as voice-enable web applications. You can even conference two legs of a call using LignUp. Hmmm, sounds like we may have our mystery man!
CodeLign does give you up to 800 free minutes as part of their beta developer program. Still, there is no guarantee that this demo application was developed using LignUp's CodeLign. In fact, looking at the sign-up page, it says:
Pre-registered ‘from’ number: this is your designated phone number that will be used when you initiate calls from CodeLign’s web services. This number is used in conjunction with your User ID. It may differ from your profile ‘Phone’ number, which may be used to contact you by LignUp.
I read this to mean you have to use a single assigned pre-registered number for making calls, where as the http://184.108.40.206/asr/ URL let me pick the number used to initiate calls. Well, if it isn't LignUp, it's pretty amazing that with only a 1 IP address difference that the site redirects to LignUp, a company that CAN create speech-enabled web applications with telephony. I will say there are plenty of existing technologies that can do what this demo just did. Though perhaps this is a legit demo of Google Android. Perhaps Google and LignUp have teamed up? Who knows? If I had to make a prediction on this New Year's Eve, I'd say this is a hoax. But still pretty fascinating to be on a call and then have advertisements or information injected into the call depending on what you say. Be afraid... Be very afraid!