Motorola, Lucent Technologies and AT&T have today joined forces to push for a single standard for a software language that allows users to access Web content using a regular telephone.
The companies have formed the VXML (Voice Extensible Markup Language) Forum and will pool their own markup languages in an attempt to drive the market for voice and phone enabled Internet access by promoting a standard specification for VXML.
A standardised VXML is expected to have a great impact on the Web, just as the standardisation of HTML did. It is expected to give users an easy way of accessing the Web while on the move and will broaden the reach of the Web to anyone with a phone.
While ecommerce has grown enormously, at present it is only available to those with access to a PC, but analysts expect 1999 to be the year that voice-activated commerce makes its mark.
Last December Motorola was one of the companies that formed the Vcommerce Alliance designed to do just that, to take ecommerce to a new level, enabling anyone to shop, buy or obtain support by speaking over a telephone or other connected device. (see Newswire 18 December 1998)
Typical applications would include a salesperson dialling into a corporate intranet from any phone and then using speech to receive real time order status information. Consumers would be able to access Web-based weather, traffic, or bank account information without needing a PC.
"When people can interact with a Web application or an IP-based service this way, the ordinary touch-tone phone literally becomes the ubiquitous Internet access device," said Larry Rabiner, vice president of research at AT&T Labs. "This technology makes it possible to launch a variety of Internet information and communications applications from anywhere - you only need access to a telephone," he said.
A trial is underway with the New York City Opera where people can access a Web site through the phone, hear clips of shows and books tickets all in one go. The first voice activated services are expected to be available to consumers within a year
The VXML Forum aims to promote a broadly supported standard that creates an open, platform independent environment that enables equipment and infrastructure providers, speech technology providers, speech application developers, content providers and communications service providers to participate in the growth of this market.
Seventeen other companies including 3Com, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BT, Nortel Networks and Dragon Systems have pledged their support for the VXML Forum and will play an active role in reviewing or contributing to the VXML specification.
The initial specification will be available for public comment and contribution next month, and the final proposal is expected to be submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) later this year.
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