Spleak and IM chat marketing
Recently a friend of mine, Josh Scott, decided to join the IMTLabs team. IMTLabs is responsible for Spleak, a virtual girl that can be 'friended' on MSN Messenger. According to the site, Spleak can do a bunch of stuff via natural language queries.
"She plays games. She makes jokes. She can give you all kinds of information, from weather and news to spell checks and definitions. She will find you new friends from all over the world."
Now first blush, IM chatbots seem fairly old hat. My AIM friends Moviefone and ShoppingBuddy must feel pretty lonely and abandoned by me at this point. That aside, with the mass transition from email to IM Chat among the next generation (I'm still firmly stuck between the two - i.e. I'm old :(), a personalized chatbot starts making a lot of sense. With open access to IM via cellphone (Mundu) and browser (Meebo), having real-time answers to questions via Spleak is a nice value-add (vs opening up another browser window, going to a search engine and trying to 'find' the correct answer). Based on that, it's no surprise that Spleak has already been uploaded to a few million chat clients.
Spleak gains a very detailed understanding of each user's interests since she's answering questions across a wide range of topics. With that, focused, niche marketing via IM starts becoming a very real opportunity (I ask a question about local restaurants and get premium and standard listings). Kudos to the IMTLabs team. Looks like they're onto something big...