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VoiceXML Developer Tools Roundup


December 31, 2002

Introduction

I had the opportunity of reviewing a number of different tools for developing and testing VoiceXML applications. In this article, I would like to focus on the salient features of some of the tools and provide some recommendations which should assist you in the selection of your next VoiceXML development tool.

A Brief Glimpse of Various Tools

Tool Category Key Highlights Screenshot
Audium 3 VoiceXML Application Server Platform
  • Based on J2EE Application Servers
  • Visual Call Flow Modeling
  • Components - Audium Builder & Server
  • Integration with custom applications using Java APIs and XML.
  • Large library of pre-built components and modules
  • Ability to create custom modules and rules
BeVocal Cafe Hosted VoiceXML Application Development Platform
  • File Management
  • Vocal Player (plays previous sessions)
  • Vocal Scripter (VoiceXML testing terminal using keyboard data entry)
  • Vocal Debugger
  • Support for pre-built SpeechObjects
  • Extensions: Speaker Verification, Voice Enrollment, Voice "Alerts"
GetVocal SDK Desktop Development Tool
  • Visual VoiceXML Editor
  • Can function as a Single Port gateway (when connected with a modem)
  • Support for ActiveX/Java components within JavaScript in VoiceXML documents
  • Scripts based Automated testing
  • Local/Remote VoiceXML Testing
HeyAnita FreeSpeech Developer Network Hosted VoiceXML Development Platform
  • File Management
  • Grammar (XML) IDE - Grammar Generation Wizard, Grammar Parser
IBM WebSphere Voice Toolkit Desktop VoiceXML Application Development Tool
  • Based on Eclipse, a popular Open Source IDE
  • VoiceXML Editor
  • Audio Recorder
  • Voice Application Debugger
  • Grammar Development Tools
  • Extensive library of Reusable Dialog Components
  • Dynamic Voice Application Development using J2EE technologies (JSP/Servlets)
  • Pronunciation Builder for IBM WebSphere Voice Server
Nuance V-Builder Desktop VoiceXML Application Development Tool
  • Visual Palette based VoiceXML Editor
  • Grammar Builder
  • Dialog Tester
  • Prompt Editor
  • Extensive library of pre-built SpeechObjects
  • Tight integration with Nuance Speech Tools
Oracle 9iAS Mobile Studio Hosted Multi-Channel Development Platform
  • Multi-channel platform. Supports Web (HTML), VoiceXML and WAP delivery simultaneously
  • Defines a set of multi-channel XML tags
Telera DeVXchange Hosted VoiceXML Development Environment + Desktop Development Tool
  • Hosted Development Tool - CodeCenter
  • Call Tracer
  • Debug Logs
  • Voice Recorder/Audio Converter
  • Grammar Verifier
  • Outbound Notification
  • AppBuilder - graphical VoiceXML application generation environment - generates asp/jsp code
  • Call Control Extensions to VoiceXML
Tellme Studio Hosted VoiceXML Application Development Platform
  • Scratchpad for creating instant demo applications
  • Grammar Tools - Phrase Checker, Phrase Generator
  • Record By Phone
  • VoiceXML Terminal (test VoiceXML applications in a text based simulated environment)
  • Support for VoIP
VoiceGenie Developer Workshop and GenieIDE Hosted VoiceXML Application Development and Desktop VoiceXML IDE
  • VoiceXML Editor
  • Dialog/Grammar Wizards
  • Dialog Flow
  • Pre-built library of SpeechWorks OpenSpeech DialogModules
  • VoiceXML Validator
  • Grammar Wizard
  • Audio Converter & Record By Phone
  • Call Log Explorer
Voxeo Community Hosted VoiceXML Application Development Platform
  • Support for VoiceXML, CallXML and CCXML Applications
  • Outbound Calling
  • Reporting
  • Web Services based Application Insight Tool - Management & Monitoring of remote VoiceXML/CCXML Applications
  • Visual Voxeo Designer
  • CCXML Support
voxPilot ODE Hosted VoiceXML Application Development Platform Key Highlights
  • Local Numbers for European Developers
  • Support for Multiple Languages
  • File/Project manager
  • Reusable Subdialog based Components
  • Realtime Log Viewer

Key Selection Criteria

If you are selecting a VoiceXML Application development/testing tool for your next VoiceXML project there are a couple of selection criteria that you should focus on: (note: depending on which category of tool that you are evaluating, not all of them may be applicable, for instance if you are only evaluating hosted development environments, typical IDE features are not available)

  1. Standards Support: Look for latest support of standards, particularly VoiceXML (1.0/2.0)
  2. Support for grammar formats: I would recommend looking for support for W3C XML grammar format and/or Nuance GSL.
  3. Access Mechanism: Real phone-based access (800/International numbers), text based simulator, Voice Over IP
  4. IDE Features: Source Code Control, Project Management etc.
  5. Visual Call Flow Modeling
  6. Reusable Components
  7. Grammar Development Tools - formats supported, generation wizards, phrase testing tools
  8. Call Debugging/Replay
  9. Call Log/Tracing
  10. Support for Deployment
  11. Pre-built Application Templates

Conclusion

The VoiceXML-based speech application development/deployment landscape is still maturing and I believe complete end-to-end tools are yet to emerge. However, it is pretty clear that a significant number of tools have emerged to accelerate the development of VoiceXML Applications. Even though these tools are probably not as mature as the web application development tools, a number of desktop-based tools have leveraged the advances and features of web tools. An excellent example is IBM's WebSphere Voice Toolkit, which is really a plug-in to the popular Eclipse application development platform. As far as hosted VoiceXML application tools, I particularly like BeVocal, Tellme, VoiceGenie and Voxeo environments. From a recommendation perspective, I don't think one size fits all applies here. Typically, I would recommend to choose a combination of a hosted VoiceXML Platform and a desktop development tool which are compatible with each other.

About Hitesh Seth

A freelance author and known speaker, Hitesh is a columnist on VoiceXML technology in XML Journal and regularly writes for other technology publications including Java Developer's Journal, Web Services Journal and The Computer Bulletin on emerging technology topics such as J2EE, Microsoft .NET, XML, Wireless Computing, Speech Applications, Web Services & Enterprise/B2B Integration. He is the conference chair for VoiceXML Planet Conference & Expo. Hitesh received his Bachelors Degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), India. Feel free to email any comments or suggestions about the articles featured in this column at hks@hiteshseth.com.

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