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September 30, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Want to talk to web pages? Motorola Inc is touting VoxML as a means of writing voice-activated applications that can be hosted on regular HTTP servers. VoxML (for voice markup language) is derived from XML and will enable users to use telephones and voice commands from other devices to get information from VoxML applications hosted on the internet. VoxML applications could be added to existing HTML web servers but the idea is for new generations of telephone switching systems to be developed (and sold by Motorola) that interface with traditional net-based technologies. Motorola says it will enable users to bypass call centers or voice operated services. The company is essentially trying to making the voice-activated web page market its own although it is dressing up VoxML as the usual ‘open’ (but it controls development of the language for now) and ‘publicly available’ specification (like Java). It would also like to offer it to W3C if it can get enough support. Not only will it sell you VoxML switches, but over time the voice browser needed to interpret commands that is initially hosted on a client the user dials into will be integrated into Motorola phones and other devices. To give Motorola its due, it has already lined up some hitters to support VoxML – though no other telecoms companies are on the list yet – including Visa International and Broadvision, and has already interfaced VoxML with speech recognition company Nuance Communications’ software. This will enable dialogue pages written in VoxML to activate speech encapsulated in Nuance’s SpeechObject technology. Capturing the rest of the voice recognition/processing ISVs will be key to its success. The VoxML application server is an HTTP server. A user calls in and activates the service through a voice browser initially hosted on the server or other client system. Content is fetched from the VoxML application server over the net by a VoxML voice browser running in the desktop development environment or in some other VoxML access server, or device, like a telephone. Motorola has written voice browser and is allowing VoxML beta ISVs to test their applications by calling a number attached to it and a VoxML interpreter. It envisages other companies writing voice browsers like web browsers or, more likely, providing it as a plug-in to existing interfaces. When using the desktop client, the user could access the voice application via a microphone and headphones connected to the PC. Motorola will sell an SDK, language specifications, example applications, a VoxML simulator. Of course it is also working on products which can utilize the technology. Pointing a conventional browser at a VoxML will render gobbledygook to the viewer.

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