There's a call for you ... from Stephen Hawking ...

Ihug has launched a new service it hopes will prove as popular as text messaging on cellphones.

Ihug has launched a new service it hopes will prove as popular as text messaging on cellphones.

T2V - text to voice - allows users to type in a message on a website and have it converted to voice and delivered to a phone number.

T2V uses a specialised speech conversion system written by the Ihug development team and provides six different voices to choose from.

Messages cost 20 cents to a land line, 50 cents to a cellphone and should be available at today.

T2V was designed and built by Ihug's in-house development team, and is being used by Ihug's credit control department to remind customers about late bills.

The service isn't limited only to Ihug customers, says brand manager Karli Fountain.

"That's the beauty of it. Ihug customers can enter their user name and password on the site but non-Ihug customers can log on, fill in their details including their credit card number and they're away." Non-Ihug users will be billed once a month, tallying up all the T2V calls made on one bill.

The calls arrive on the recipient's phone just like an ordinary call - when the person picks up the receiver, the message will be delivered (without the need for a special voicemail number and log-in). But how will it cope with Maori names or even the Kiwi accent?

"Obviously we'll be monitoring it to see how the service is being received and in the next version we're looking at introducing a user dictionary, that sort of thing. It works well but of course things like abbreviations can throw it." says Fountain.

She says the service is expected to be a big hit on special holidays, like Valentine's Day.

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