Small MSO Tests Voice Navigation Service

Sunflower Broadband, a small Kansas cable operator, is putting its larger brethren to shame once again. Sunflower, which started bundling cellular phone service with its cable products last year long before the giant MSOs, is now planning to launch a voice-enabled TV search and navigation service for digital cable subscribers. The Kansas-based cable operator, which serves 30,000 customers in Lawrence and the northeastern part of the state, announced a "predeployment agreement" earlier today with AgileTV. Under the deal, Sunflower will begin a marketwide deployment of AgileTV's "Promptu" navigation service by next summer. A Silicon Valley tech startup, AgileTV designed Promptu to enable TV viewers to find a program by genre, the show's name, its network, the actors or the sports team. Viewers simply press the "talk" button on their remote controls and state their requests. AgileTV said the service, which relies on a database of more than 100,000 phrases, can deliver greater than 90% voice recognition accuracy. Talk may be cheap. But if Sunflower's deployment of Promptu succeeds, it could make subscribers bewildered by digital cable choices forget about electronic program guides in a heartbeat. Beware, TV Guide.

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