Having an Instant Messaging (IM) dialogue with an automaton is not new. There have been various attempts to introduce platforms and developer kits to allow this type of service to be realised. The idea is to use IM to interact with a software application (automaton) rather than a human being.
One mode of IM assistant is the variation on interactive dial-up menus - "press 1 for option A, press 2 for option B, etc." This mode of dialogue with a service hasn't really found an application, mostly because in the majority of contexts there is a better, or more familiar, alternative, such as the web of course.
However, I think that within the "push-to-X" presentation of services, IM-automatons make sense, especially as more automatons start to appear in our buddy lists alongside all of our human buddies.
The particular idea I had related to my previous two posts on instant updating of voicemail announcements
The weakness of making voicemail announcements more fluid is our own propensity to forget things, like changing the announcement back again from a "temporary" one. For example, if I pushed an update to say "hi, I'm in a meeting until 3", I need to remember to go back and update it after 3 in order to avoid announcement staleness.
One possibility for doing this is to include a expiry setting on the announcement. After the expiry time passes, the most recent announcement is deleted and returns to the default one.
Setting the expiry time, if required, mustn't be a tedious process, otherwise the whole convenience of instantly updating announcements is eroded. Therefore, what I had in mind was to pop an IM dialogue on the user's device immediately after depositing the new announcement. The IM dialogue would simply say "How many hours (h) or minutes (m) should the announcement last? (e.g. 1h, 5m)"
Here's the sequence then:
1. I select my "voicemail buddy" from the buddy list
2. Press the PTT button and speak the new announcement
3. Release the PTT button
4. An IM dialogue immediately pops up on my device:
Voicemail:> "How many hours (h) or minutes (m) should the announcement last?"
Voicemail:>"Your new announcement is set for 1 hour...bye"
5. IM dialogue closes
This kind of interaction is easily integrated into the new environment of buddy-driven presence interfaces and services on the coming generation of 3G devices. All of the interactions in that environment are SIP-based, which allows a fluid movement between different types of communication session, such as voice and IM. In this context, it seems to me that IM-automatons are a likely candidate for interaction with various services, either entirely or partially, such as the example just discussed.
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