A markup language for talking browsers?

IBM says its SpeechML language, which is based on XML, will let Web authors write content for speech-enabled browsers using simple markup tags.

IBM is talking up a new markup language for speech-enabled browsers.

When mature, SpeechML will let Web authors write content for speech-enabled browsers using simple markup tags. Conversational access could broaden Web access from automobiles and telephones and facilitate Web access for the visually impaired.

The language, SpeechML, is posted to IBM's alphaWorks site for technologies in progress. IBM is soliciting customer feedback on it.

SpeechML is based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), a metalanguage recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for the creation of industry- or task-specific markup languages.

The W3C has had its ear to the ground on the topic of speech-enabled Web applications. The consortium in October convened a voice browser workshop. Participants divided roughly into those who felt voice browsing should have a markup language of the type that IBM has posted, and those who felt HTML and style sheets could do the trick.

In today's announcement of SpeechML, IBM pledged to work with the W3C toward the goal of a universal standard.

SpeechML, like other XML-based markup languages, attempts to make complicated technologies usable by ordinary Web authors through simple and universally recognized tags.

SpeechML can parse data from multiple Web sources so that users can go back and forth between speech-enabled and traditional interfaces.

IBM's alphaWorks posting includes a blueprint of the markup language, a conversational browser, and demonstrations. Under the hood of the language, one finds Sun's Java Speech Markup Language (JSML) and Java Speech Grammar Format (JSGF). IBM's conversational browser is written in Java.