Spinvox says goodby to customers by text

Controversial speech-to-text startup Spinvox is ditching its consumer accounts, SMS messages sent to its user base on Thursday and Friday have said.


Controversial voice-to-text startup Spinvox is ditching its consumer accounts, SMS messages sent to its user base on Thursday and Friday have said.

Texts relayed to social media services such as Twitter read: "We regret to inform you that SpinVox is no longer supporting individual user accounts. Your account will expire in 7 days. "

There was official statement on the Spinvox website, or that of parent Nuance, which bought the troubled firm for £64 million ($102 million at that time) in December 2009. At that time, Spinvox said it planned to continue with consumer accounts.

Parent Nuance did eventually make a brief statement to Techworld by email.

"We've made the decision to cease offering Spinvox's direct to consumer offerings to focus our resources on serving our global mobile carrier partners and their customers," it read.

Although not confirmed, one third-party source said that redundancies in the start-ups were also on the cards, and that Nuance planned to push the text-to-speech system to network operators rather than to individuals.

"As you know, Nuance acquired SpinVox in December 2009 and, to further align with our commitment to serving our mobile operator customers and partners, we will no longer offer our voice-to-text services directly to consumers.

"SpinVox announced in September 2009 its plans to offer a free service through December 2009, and, while we have enjoyed directly offering consumers a free voicemail-to-text offering, it is our mission to offer our services to consumers as a standard feature in mobile service plans locally and globally."

A new direction won't be a surprise for the Cambridge-based company, however, after a history that has earned it the moniker ‘controversial' so often missing from the CVs of UK tech companies that usually follow a duller, quieter path.

Last summer, accusations flew that its core technology for translating audio messages into SMS texts was so ineffective that it had quietly employed Indian workers to carry out the task.

One prominent BBC journalist even tested the system, sending himself the same text five times in a row. Each one was transcribed in a different way. The extensive use of humans to type messages raised security and privacy concerns.

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