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AOL launches video-sharing mobile phone game

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - AOL Inc entered the mobile gaming market with a social video guessing game available on Apple's iPhone that uses voice recognition technology to keep players from cheating.

For now, the game, Clucks, can only be played by iPhone users. The Android version of the app will be released by the end of the year, according to Sol Lipman, vice president of AOL's Mobile First unit which identifies new market opportunities in the mobile space.

The once-dominant internet service provider, envisions its release of Clucks last Thursday as just a first step into the mobile marketplace which it sees as key to revive its brand.

Clucks players use smartphones to record a 12-second video of themselves describing a word, for instance "tree." Their opponent then receives the video and must guess the word.

"You're trying to send clues without using the word 'tree', or associated words like 'wood' or 'leaves' or branches,'" Lipman said.

To ensure that none of the banned words are used by players, the Clucks app incorporates voice recognition technology.

"If you use one of those words accidentally or intentionally, it will catch you cheating and take points away," Lipman said.

When the opponent receives the video, their reaction is also recorded, and the side-by-side video of the round can be shared to social network Facebook or video sharing app Viddy.

As in popular mobile games such as Words With Friends and Draw Something, Clucks participants do not need to play at the same time and can take turns at their convenience.

Lipman said Clucks was inspired by two trends in mobile apps: social video, with apps such as Viddy now having over 40 million users, and turn-based games such as Draw Something.

The company plans to monetize the game through its sponsors. Rather than ads, they aim to incorporate promotional content within the app, such as the ability to play a pre-recorded round of Clucks with an actor or film director providing the clues.

Currently the only way to sign in to the app is through Facebook but Lipman said the company plans to change that.

The game, which draws comparisons to the board game Taboo, is the first release on AOL's new social video platform. AOL's Mobile First unit released a personalized magazine app, Editions, last year.

Lipman said the company has other offerings it plans to build on top of the platform.

"We want to build new products that succeed in the market and get people excited and reinvigorate AOL both internally and externally," Lipman added.

Lipman said AOL, as a brand company, predicts the future of brands is going to be primarily mobile. In addition to Clucks, the unit released Editions, a personalized magazine app, last year.

"We want to build new products that succeed in the market and get people excited and reinvigorate AOL both internally and externally," Lipman added.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Alden Bentley)

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