Maybe this would be a good project for DevHouse Boston.
You have a cell phone. But you’re visiting family and don’t have an alarm clock with you. Why not schedule your wake-up calls via the phone?
Or suppose you remember you’ve got to start preparing lunch at 12:45. Why not have an automated reminder service call you?
This is just about the simplest possible VoiceXML service, but it’s still not done well on the web. The closest thing I’ve found is ifbyphone.com, which has basically the right services and business model but an interface that’s about 50% more cumbersome than it needs to be. They’ve taken the approach of offering as many options as possible, and thus it takes a while to find the free 10-day trial. When you call their number to schedule a reminder you have to wait through the greeting, say “wake up calls” (probably more than once), and then choose the day (say “Tuesday” or dial 1, say “Wednesday” or dial 2, etc… you can’t just say “today” or “tomorrow”) and enter or say the time. Then it asks you for your time zone, even though you entered a time zone during website registration. And finally it requires you to choose the phone number, since it’s soooo likely you’ll want to schedule a reminder call to a phone other than the one you’re using.
It should go like this:
IVR: Hello Shimon. Thank you for cal…
me: wake up calls
IVR: When should we call you?
me: today at twelve forty five
IVR: We’ll call you on Tuesday, November 21st at 12:45pm Eastern Standard Time. Hang up now to finish, or say “timezone” or “start over” to make changes. You can also say “note” to add a voice note, or “recurring” to make this a recurring reminder.
Blending prompts together, and allowing revision rather than requiring confirmation, reduces interaction time in half. Blend this with a simple web interface and you’ve got a self-contained, obvious product that I’d wager people wouldn’t mind paying $5/mo for.
Why not just use your cell phone’s built-in alarm or calendar? I think this would be significantly faster to use, and it would have a consistent interface across different phones. But maybe that’s not enough to make this an idea worth pursuing. I’m not sure.