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We’ve talked a bit about how text communications are on the rise, replacing a lot of the voice self service that companies have traditionally offered. Text doesn’t always replace voice, however. With platforms that can work over both voice and text, it’s possible for text to augment the voice channel.

Take the example of directory assistance. Back when I was a kid, you called directory assistance, gave a business name (to a real human!) and they gave you the phone number. You wrote down the number and gave the business a call. Over time, companies started offering a service where they’d transfer you to the number, letting you skip writing it down and dialing yourself. With mobile phones, this service became even more important, as you’re often calling for assistance when you can’t stop and write something down.

An issue sometimes arises, however, when the number is busy. Or you get disconnected and have to call back. Since you didn’t pick up the number from the directory assistance but were transferred by them, you end up having to call back, ask for the business again, and get transferred again.

Multi-modal to the rescue.

Imagine if your phone company didn’t just transfer you to the number, but also sent you a text message with the business name, number, and address. That’s a multimodal conversation. You start out communicating in one channel (voice) and end up finishing the conversation or getting supplementary information via another (text).

As an example of multimodal applications, I’ve updated our Tropo Local Search demo. If you call from a mobile phone and look up a restaurant, you’ll get a text message containing the contact information of the listing you selected. Give it a try by calling (415) 894-9965 and finding coffee, pizza, or some other type of food in your neighborhood. And of course, the code is available in our documentation or on Github.