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More than a Grain of SALT: Industry Leaders Assess How Specification Is Laying Foundation for Speech Technologies

  • April 8, 2003
  • By Developer.com Staff
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Peter Gavalakis
Marketing Manager
Intel Corp.

"We now have the three things that we've needed to come together to make the widespread deployment of speech interfaces a reality."

"SALT is compelling because it utilizes existing markup languages and the execution models behind them, making it appealing to the community of web developers. It's also applicable to both the classic, system-directed voice response applications where users respond to prompts issued by the application, as well as user-directed applications, where the user asks for what is needed and the application responds based on the commands.

"SALT works well in both execution models, and that's part of the beauty of it. It's a single specification that addresses voice-only as well as multimodal applications. There was really no specification prior to SALT that did that. So SALT is unifying in the sense that it enables speech interfaces for a wide variety of applications.

"With the availability of standard telephony boards that can integrate servers with a company's telephony infrastructure, combined with a variety of complementary software technology for deployment in the call center and the robust development environment that Microsoft is providing, we now have the three things that we've needed to come together to make the widespread deployment of speech interfaces a reality. The next step is to build an ecosystem of developers to support it with products and services for the end-user community. Microsoft, Intel and others, working together around a common industry specification such as SALT, will help companies to start deploying solutions, lowering entry barriers and increasing customer choice, while launching us into the age of true voice integration, and making speech mainstream."

Steve Chirokas
Director of Product Marketing
SpeechWorks

"Part of the reason that speech is starting to take off is there are many things that can be done with speech today that you couldn't do even in the recent past."

"What we're seeing today is that speech is really beginning to cut across many different application areas and segments, and some terrific solutions are starting to emerge for companies to automate call center operations, making the call center more available, allowing customers to get information in a self-service manner, and really improving overall customer support and satisfaction.

"Part of the reason that speech is starting to take off is there are many things that can be done with speech today that you couldn't do even in the recent past. There is a combination of reasons for that. One is that recognition is much better than it used to be. Combine that with text-to-speech, the output component, which is sounding so much more natural today, and what you get is a customer service model that really works with customers. When a customer calls into an automated call center today, the technology is available that can allow them to easily get through a dialog and be understood. And importantly, the information that they get back doesn't always have to be prerecorded. It could be a data stream or a text-to-speech stream, and it sounds much more natural.

"I think, with the quality and effectiveness of speech applications improving as they have, with new capabilities afforded by emerging specifications such as SALT, and with new tools coming onto the market to harness those capabilities, we're going to see more applications that repurpose Internet and corporate data to an audio format. This will allow mobile workers to really be connected in efficient ways when they're out in the field, and allow existing Web services to provide a range of new services to customers no matter where they are. "

James Mastan
Director of Marketing, Speech Technologies Group
Microsoft Corp.

"The approach taken by the SALT specification will allow for seamless interaction between Web and telephony."

"Companies looking to make an infrastructure investment in speech want to ensure that the technology in which they are investing will not only solve problems and benefit the business today, but also allow for growth and expansion as the business evolves. We believe that our commitment to SALT as the foundation for the Microsoft Speech Platform will help customers not only take advantage of their existing web infrastructure to provide all of the associated benefits of speech integration for telephony applications right now, today, but also lay the foundation for an evolution to multimodal interfaces for multiple devices - handhelds, Smartphones, PDAs, Tablet PCs - as those devices start coming into the enterprise in the future.

"By basing our platform on an open, royalty-free specification, we hope to eliminate the 'rip-and-replace' proposition for customers - the idea that they would have to not only invest now to enable speech for their telephony applications, but, as the multimodal interface comes into the forefront, that they would have to get rid of that infrastructure and rebuild their applications instead of simply extending them through minor modifications, as you would with an elegant Web programming style, to include the new devices. We think that the approach taken by the SALT specification will allow for seamless interaction between Web and telephony, while also positioning customers to include multimodality as those solutions develop.

"The partners that we've been working with in this effort have been a tight, cohesive team, and we're constantly expanding the depth and breadth of our partnerships to help bring SALT-based technologies to the mainstream."



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