A coalition of leading IT companies working on speech technology has added 18 new members and is to release a specification this quarter.
Compaq, Korea Telecom, Loquendo, Siemens Enterprise Networks and T-Systems, a division of Deutsche Telekom, joined Cisco Systems, Intel, Microsoft, Royal Philips Electronics and SpeechWorks Technologies at the Speech Application Language Tags forum.
The forum has been developing an open, royalty-free markup language for speech-enabling applications. The technology is intended to make web services accessible through a telephone or any computing device that can transmit voice.
The technology works independently of the operating system and is free for use by web developers. The specification is based on HTML, XML and other web development standards.
James Mastan, chairman of the forum's Marketing Working Group, explained that just as standardisation of HTML drove the adoption of traditional web applications, standardisation of an open speech framework will drive the adoption of speech applications.
The forum intends to submit the initial version of its markup language draft specification to one or more international standards bodies for review by the middle of the year.
At the recent Telephony Voice User Interface conference, Microsoft and SpeechWorks announced a strategic alliance aimed at promoting the widespread use of speech technologies in the development of enterprise applications.
SpeechWorks will configure its speech technologies to support the forum's specification and integrate with the Microsoft speech platform.
The company will also add support for the latest version of the Microsoft Speech Application Programming Interface, SAPI 5.1, to its OpenSpeech Recogniser and Speechify engines, and will initially port eight OpenSpeech DialogModules to be compliant with the Microsoft platform.
Bill Meisel, president of speech industry consulting firm TMA Associates, maintained that the alliance is a welcome commitment to move the technology forward.
"It accelerates the availability of an integrated multi-modal solution," he said. "Web-oriented developers who don't consider themselves speech experts will be particularly motivated to look into speech interfaces as an important extension of their skills."
Experts said that the new specifications may overlap somewhat with another emerging standard in speech technology, VoiceXML.
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