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Speech Recognition: Voice Browsing

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VoicenData Bureau
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"Imagine having your e-mails read out to you, carrying out an automated

banking or stock trading transaction, inquiring weather forecasts and listening

to traffic reports in a hands-free eyes-free manner while on the move, all via

voice-activated services?"

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Still not convinced? Over the telephone, speech recognition expands the way

callers get information quickly and perform many types of everyday transactions

by using their voice and an automated system. These technologies let users

access and manage information and stored content from any website or database

that is of interest to them, using their ‘own voice’ via conventional

telephones or mobile phones.

In today’s competitive market place, businesses need to enhance their

communications offerings and strive for differentiation. Touch-tone menus and

other automated customer service applications could be counter-productive, as

the caller has to ‘wait for the operator’, ‘press one for....’ or ‘listen

to long menus’. Speech will allow companies to bring a natural flow of

communication through an automated system right to their customers and deliver

value through voice. Speech technology will make businesses stand out from the

crowd, as they can extend their service offerings to anyone who has a phone.

That is why speech is a breakthrough technology. It is estimated that by the

end of 2005, there will be 128 million speech-enabled users, with nearly 50

percent being considered as regular users. Customers and businesses will

immediately understand the benefits of speech.

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Several emerging standards are now driving the next-generation of speech

services. VoiceXML and session initiation protocol (SIP) are having a great

impact on the development of speech services. The voice extensible markup

language (VoiceXML) describes an interaction between a caller and a server over

the telephone. SIP–a call control protocol developed to assist in providing

advanced telephony services like routing/load balancing and location services–is

a leading industry standard likely to impact the speech market.

Even though acceptance of speech systems worldwide has gathered pace, certain

questions still remain unanswered. Who will adopt this technology and at what

price? Will the end user readily accept this?

In India, there has been limited activity in the ‘voice Web’ arena, which

involves scientific computing and application design. Talent in India is

available in abundance and as the awareness and demand for voice technology

catches on, we will see a few companies springing up and providing these

solutions. There are however, a few companies that have taken the initiative to

tap the emerging potential and have developed their very own ready-to-deploy

voice platforms and custom voice applications.

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The ‘voice Web’ in the real sense is a merging of the telephone networks

and the Internet. The consumer will be exposed to more and more speech

applications, which will be developed and deployed in-house or outsourced to

application service providers. These applications will initially be accessible

one at a time and provide a particular set of services, as they will be running

in isolation from other services or service providers.

Getting these isolated bits and pieces together will provide the caller with

more flexibility, as they will be able to obtain more value

during the course of a single phone call. With the ability to ‘jump to’, ‘browse’

or ‘access’ content or information in an uninterrupted manner, enterprises

will automatically be able to reach out to a larger audience. Imagine, after

checking the availability of a book with a particular seller, a buyer can

immediately arrange for its pick-up through a courier company.

With the evolution of ‘voice Web’, it will not be long before the caller

will be able to enjoy unlimited and uninterrupted access to a virtually infinite

quantum of content via voice.

Prashant Lamba director and

co-founder Phonologies India

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