World Wide Web Consortium Issues VoiceXML 2.0 as a W3C Proposed Recommendation

Cornerstone to the W3C Speech Interface Framework is Nearly Complete

Giving voice to the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published VoiceXML 2.0 as a W3C Proposed Recommendation. The goal of VoiceXML 2.0 is to bring the advantages of Web-based development and content delivery to interactive voice response applications.

Advancement of a W3C technical report to Proposed Recommendation indicates that the Working Group has successfully completed both public and W3C Working Group review, and has provided evidence of successful interoperable implementations. It is the final review before a document becomes a W3C Recommendation, commonly understood as a Web standard.

Giving Voice to the Web: W3C’s Speech Interface Framework

Since 1999, W3C has been working on its Speech Interface Framework to expand access to the Web to allow people to interact via key pads, spoken commands, listening to prerecorded speech, synthetic speech and music. With the number of telephone lines and mobile phones exceeding one billion units worldwide, the specifications of W3C’s Speech Interface Framework will allow an unprecedented number of people to use any telephone to access appropriately designed Web-based services.

VoiceXML 2.0 Delivers Voice and Interactivity to the Speech Interface Framework

VoiceXML 2.0 allows developers to create audio dialogs that feature synthesized speech, digitized audio, recognition of spoken and DTMF (touch-tone) key input, recording of spoken input, telephony, and mixed-initiative conversations.

“VoiceXML 2.0 has the power to change the way phone-based information and customer services are developed. No longer will we have to press ’one’ for this or ’two’ for that. Instead, we will be able to make selections and provide information by speech,” explained Dave Raggett, W3C Voice Browser Activity Lead. “In addition, VoiceXML 2.0 creates opportunities for people with visual impairments or those needing Web access while keeping their hands and eyes free for other things, such as getting directions while driving.”

In the W3C Speech Interface Framework, VoiceXML controls how the application interacts with the user, while the Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) is used for spoken prompts and the Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS) for guiding the speech recognizers via grammars that describe the expected user responses. Other specifications in the Framework include Voice Browser Call Control (CCXML), which provides telephony call control support for VoiceXML or other dialog systems, and Semantic Interpretation for Speech Recognition, which defines the syntax and semantics of the contents of tags in SRGS.

Adoption Rate of VoiceXML 2.0 Already Industry Wide

In order to advance to W3C’s Proposed Recommendation status, there must be evidence of independent interoperable implementations – it must be proven to work. In the case of VoiceXML2, the implementation evidence is extraordinary, with at least eight known implementations in both prototype and fully released products. A complete list of current implementors is available.

There is an extensive, public set of test suites. While the initial version contains over 300 tests, the final version is expected to have more than 500 tests. Updates to the test suite will be announced on the Voice Browser public mailing list.

This complements the test suite provided with the Speech Recognition Grammar Specification, which became a W3C Candidate Recommendation in June 2002. Test suites for the remaining specifications in the W3C Speech Interface Framework, including the Speech Synthesis Markup Language, are under development by the W3C Voice Browser Working Group and will be published over the next few months.

VoiceXML 2.0, Speech Interface Framework to Evolve, Patent Issues Resolved

The W3C Voice Browser Working Group is among the largest and most active in W3C. Its participants include BeVocal Inc., Canon, Comverse, France Telecom, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, HP, HeyAnita, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, Loquendo, Microsoft, MITRE, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel Networks, Nuance, Philips, PipeBeach, SAP, ScanSoft, SnowShore Networks, SpeechWorks, Sun, Syntellect, Tellme Networks, Unisys, Verascape, VoiceGenie, Voxeo, and Voxpilot.

Patent issues arising from inconsistencies with the Voice Browser Working Group’s Royalty-Free Licensing Mode have been addressed by a Patent Advisory Group within the W3C, per the W3C’s Current Patent Practice. As a result, the W3C Voice Browser Working Group committed to the production of an open specification, and the Voice Browser Patent Advisory Group resolved the remaining issues, making it possible for the core VoiceXML 2.0 specification to be made available according to W3C’s Royalty-Free License.

Media Contact

Marie-Claire Forgue W3C

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