Telephones: Speak and you shall find

Cell phones. Pagers. Fax machines. There is no shortage of numbers to remember these days. You will have more room in your memory box now that Information Systems and Computing Networking & Telecommunications has launched its new automatic speech recognition directory.

The software, which is linked to Penn’s main phone number (215-898-5000), acts like a voice-activated phonebook. To test the software now, just dial 215-746-4242, speak the complete name of the person or department you wish to reach and the system will route your call to the appropriate number.

Nydia LaPlante, associate director of consulting services for ISC, said the idea is to offer directory assistance between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., when live operators have gone offline.

ISC also plans to market the service to local vendors, thereby giving them the chance to be included in the directory. For example, if you’re craving pizza, dial into the system, say pizza and you will get a listing of pizzerias in the area who have signed up for the service.

LaPlante said live assistance will still be available during normal hours. However, overflow traffic may be directed to the new system when the University is short on operators.

First-time callers should verify that the pronunciation of their name and routing to their phone number are correct. Report problems via voicemail to 215-573-9077.

Originally published on October 17, 2002