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Web voice technologies get W3C go-ahead

The World Wide Web Consortium says two specifications are ready for adoption as industry standards.

The World Wide Web Consortium said Tuesday that two specifications related to computer-voice interaction are ready to become industry standards.

As previously reported, the W3C had been building its recommendation through a series of reviews by several technology vendors.

One of the specifications, VoiceXML 2.0, aims to improve the development and delivery of Web content to interactive voice response applications. The other, Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS), is meant to augment VoiceXML's support for speech recognition and can convert end-user responses to spoken prompts.

VoiceXML is typically applied to the process of using voice commands instead of keystrokes to automate responses to phone calls made to businesses. Among its promised benefits are improved call routing, information gathering and retrieval. The specification can be used with or separately from the Internet.

Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, ScanSoft, IBM and Tellme Networks, among other companies, reviewed VoiceXML 2.0. Due to the complexity of the specification, the W3C took longer than usual to complete its evaluations.

The approval stands as the latest step in the establishment of the W3C's Speech Interface Framework, which the group hopes will enable more people to use Web-based services by using any phone's key pads, speaking commands into a phone or using other forms of audio input.

Historic milestone
W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, best known for inventing the World Wide Web, called the recommendation a "historic milestone" in the convergence of telecommunications and Internet technology.

"Historically, there were both technical and cultural gaps between the way voice-based systems have evolved and that of the Internet and Web, leaving the information available only to voice systems or the Web," Berners-Lee said in a statement.

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"With the development of the W3C Speech Interface Framework, including VoiceXML 2.0 and SRGS, we're now able to integrate and benefit from the strengths of both groups."

The group's approval of VoiceXML 2.0 is also considered important to the development of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, one of the hottest technology sectors at present. Using VoIP technology, end users can make phone calls via the Internet rather than through traditional wireline services.

To make the recommendations, the W3C had to create a patent advisory group, VoiceXML 2.0's second, to settle intellectual property disputes over the technology.