, MIT partner to improve customer experience

Most of the time an engineering college looks for partnerships with big software or hardware firms in hopes to attract more students and to establish a career placement relationship with the “real world.” However, we don’t see a lot of voice application companies in these partnerships so the news about and MIT is quite encouraging and refreshing.

Also, as I have previously posted, the future industry trend is that Web programmers will dominate the voice app resource pool. A future voice app developer would have to know more about Web-centric programming languages like PHP and Python, and understand mashups with Web APIs, than knowledge of traditional telecom. Looks like is already grooming the next generation of voice app developers.

Here’s the press release:

MCLEAN, VA–(Marketwire – May 25, 2010) –, a leading provider of enterprise focused, cloud-based, customer engagement solutions, today announced the success of its customer experience lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering. Through a course titled “Engineering Innovation and Design,” MIT students were tasked with identifying a compelling real-world problem to solve using voice applications, building a business case, and designing an elegant voice solution to solve that problem.

Some of the intriguing solutions developed in this semester’s class include automated voice applications to find the best parties and nightlife in town, manage to-do lists via the phone (complete with speech to text), and steer remote-control cars — all through a simple phone call:

  • The “MITchell Partymann” Facebook Party App: Within Facebook, students invite a virtual MIT party character to their party, and then others can call the Partymann phone number to have relevant data on local parties read back to them over the phone.
  • Foursquare Voice: Allows users to interact with the location-based social networking website, Foursquare, to connect with their friends in real time. Check-in, earn badges, hear tips, keep a to-do list, find friends and even record messages for Twitter, Facebook and iPhone all through the phone.
  • The “Echo” To Do List Manager: Users call a phone number and setup to-do lists, shopping lists, etc., then check off items when completed. An integration was added for speech to text conversion to make lists even easier to create.
  • “Car Talk” Remote Control Car Application: Using web services and an Ardunio chip to talk to a controller that sends signals to an RC car, callers can speak commands through a phone (such as “turn left” and “go forward”) that direct the car.

Held as a Spring and Fall semester class within the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program — a selective program for MIT undergraduate engineering students — the lab has given 45 MIT students the opportunity to design next-generation voice user interface (VUI) applications for consumers, using the same web-based Site Builder technology that is used for complex IVR and call center solutions by enterprise companies.

The class was so successful this semester through the use of that requests for enrollment in the class for Fall semester have doubled. In previous semesters, students had relied on cumbersome VXML coding for the projects, but using the web-based Site Builder platform donated by to create their innovations instead, students were able to focus more on the creative and business presentation aspects of their projects, rather than the programming.

“This class was such a huge success that students have joined the Gordon program because of it,” said Blade Kotelly, Guest Instructor for the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. “If Apple made an interface for designing speech applications, it would be the Site Builder toolkit. There’s no better tool for designing voice applications. It’s as easy to use as my iPhone. In fact, I had students with zero coding experience producing applications in minutes, so I had to make the homework assignments more difficult! This is truly an amazing tool that has been transformative with my students.”

“It is an honor to have’s technology deployed within a university as prestigious as MIT to help foster creativity among future engineers and prepare these students for prospective careers in voice application design,” said Dave Rennyson, President and COO of “As a company at the forefront of innovation in voice technology and the development of next-generation voice solutions, we are proud to contribute to the education of our future colleagues and leaders.”

About is a leading provider of enterprise focused, cloud based, customer engagement solutions, including Caller First focused Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Call Center solutions. These solutions enable enterprise organizations to quickly deploy voice, SMS, chat and business intelligence applications. More than 1,600 customers worldwide turn to’s proprietary customer engagement technology to power customer experience, marketing and sales needs.’s solutions are built on an on-demand, Software as a Service (SaaS) platform and require no investment in hardware, software, or human resources, balancing the need for high quality communications with affordable pay-as-you-go pricing.

About the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program
Launched through a $20 million gift by The Bernard M. Gordon Foundation, the Bernard M. Gordon – MIT Engineering Leadership Program is a new educational initiative at MIT that combines leadership development with the rigor of the MIT educational experience.


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