For a short animated introduction, check out “Murmur in teh Philippines“. Murmur is an interesting Toronto-based mobile service. They put up street signs with codes and when you call those codes, they narrate to you stories about that place. Ka Edong has a more in-depth write-up.
What I am more interested in are the possibilities when you view remote services from the point of view of call centers. One of my favorite novels, Diamond Age, has a main character who is a “ractor”. These are people who provide voice and acting talent remotely, much like call center agents. I think it would be great if services like Murmur hired humans to answer their calls instead of just using prerecorded messages. This will surely enhance the service, because there is no substitute for real conversation.
Also, since real conversations are definitely more useful than recordings, there are more ways to make use of it. For example, with the poor urban planning of our cities, it is easy to get lost. I would prefer to ask locals how to get where I’m going but sometimes those kind people have no idea too. I won’t have to worry though. I can just pull out my mobile and ask for directions!