Amit Desai: Heading in the right direction

Ladies, if your man is hopelessly lost behind the wheel, there’s one woman you may not mind whispering in his ear.

She’s the voice behind a new directions service launched in the Bay Area in July dubbed Dial Directions. “Oh no, my guy exchanging digits with another woman?” you may protest. But this woman, while not a qualified marriage counselor, has already cut down on driving bicker and saved entire road trips for the three men who invented the service. Just think what she can do for you.

“I remember when we were in college at MIT, Ben and I would go driving around looking for IHOPs and get quite lost, so that was definitely part of the motivation” for the service, said directionally challenged Amit Desai, Dial Directions co-founder, along with Benjamin Van Roy and Adeeb Shanaa.

Friends since their freshman year at MIT, all three ended up in the Bay Area 16 years later. Using their combined expertise in computer science, engineering and voice recognition, they have developed cutting-edge technology that recognizes voices on the telephone with few errors while providing directions to nearby chain stores or from one address to a second, Van Roy, a San Francisco resident, said. Once the female operator verifies the caller’srequest, they hang up and immediately receive turn-by-turn directions via text message to their cell phone.

The service has already helped Van Roy and his wife avoid arguments in the car, he said. “While I’ve never minded stopping to ask for directions, I have always found that arguments arise in the car when both of us think we know the best way to get somewhere.”

Desai’s girlfriend, too, has been impressed. “She was relieved because I had to rely on her to get me around all the time,” Desai said.

Hardwired for directions or not, it doesn’t take a degree from MIT to used Dial Directions. “Anyone who can dial a cell phone and speak can use it,” Desai said.

Service in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas is also up and running, with plans in the near future to go nationwide, Desai said. He sees real-time traffic updates and categories such as nearest “movie theater” or “coffee shop” added in the not too distant future.

Free to users, except for the text message fee charged by most cellular providers, Dial Directions makes money by placing a line of text below the directions, Desai said.

To try the service for yourself dial DIR-ECT-IONS (347-328-4667) or visit the Web for a tutorial at www.dialdirections.com.

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