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Will Robo.to’s “Conversational Lubricant” Save the Art of the Phone Call?

Roboto

Yesterday, we reported that Robo.to would be releasing an app this fall for iPhone and Android that co-opts your boring “incoming call” screen and presents you with all your caller’s relevant social info: last tweets, video posts, status, location and so on. But why would anyone want all that info before picking up the phone?

To answer that question, I spoke to Rey Flemings, CEO of Particle, the Bay Area developer that makes Robo.to. The whole purpose of Robo.to, which is a freestanding service even without the mobile apps, is to have video status updates that supplement all the text. (Left, part of Robo.to’s Web interface, which will service as inspiration for the “incoming call” screen on its mobile app.)

“On Twitter, you can see what’s happening right now, but the photo you see has nothing do with what’s going on right now,” says Flemings. Robo.to works in conjunction with almost every major social network, from Twitter to Facebook to Flickr, so it coalesces all that stuff into a palette you can check out before or during a call. “The information you see will still be going on while you’re on the call,” he says, so while talking to your friend, you might be able to see that they’re on vacation in Mexico, or check out a picture of their new dog. “It’s conversational lubricant,” he says.

Flemings believes that 2010 will be the “year of the forward-facing webcam” on smartphones, and says that Robo.to hopes to use social activity to give context to the interactions you make every day. With that kind of conversational material cued up, it’ll be practically impossible to find an awkward moment in any phone call–and that may bring email- and text-addicts back to voice.

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