Ask to Ask Your iPhone to Ask People Nearby

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About 10 years ago while at AOL we teamed up with a phone-based concierge service (VIPdesk) to build out “local concierges” for several of our city sites at Digital City. The way it worked was anyone in, say, Washington could ask (via an online chat window) questions from “where’s a good place for sushi near Georgetown?” to “can you get me theater tickets for Thursday?”

Starting with a knowledge base of already-answered common questions made it pretty easy for the paid concierges to quickly give great feedback. Without a big sponsor or method for askers to easily pay, however, the model was not really scalable. This is when many things tech were turning downward after all. (remember Ask Jeeves?) is taking a shot with something a bit different from the crop of other q&a services blooming in the past few years. With it’s coming iPhone app, according to TechCrunch,¬†users will be able ask their phone questions – via speech-to-text – that will be pinged off a knowledge base of 500 million pairs. No luck with a good answer? They can opt to blast the question to the beta community.

Sometime later this year, however, users will be able to ask nearby people about nearby venues or points of interest, based on iPhone’s location detect: “How is the flounder tonight at Jack’s Select Seafood?” Or, more likely, “What’s the scoop inside Club 44 right now?”

It’s a long way from the concierge, and likely to be much more fun.

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