More than a Grain of SALT: Industry Leaders Assess How Specification Is Laying Foundation for Speech Technologies
Vice President of Strategic Product Development
"Once customers are able to interact with a Web site or corporate server via intuitive speech interfaces, they will start to expect speech interaction on all automated systems."
"Enterprise IT departments have invested heavily over the past few years in solutions that provide automated, self-service contact for their Web-enabled customers. Given that around half of all U.S. households have Web-enabled PCs, while telephony penetration is in excess of 90 percent, implementing a solution that combines both channels increases customer contact and really extends the enterprise's reach and ability to communicate with customers in an automated fashion. This is a critical benefit of speech technology and particularly SALT in the Microsoft environment - the ability of the enterprise to greatly reduce their total cost of ownership of the platform while increasing customer contact through any device, any time, anywhere.
Today, developers using the Microsoft Speech SDK can begin to speech-enable their Web pages and develop interfaces to the same data sources through telephony devices. Once customers are able to interact with a Web site or corporate server via intuitive speech interfaces, they will start to expect speech interaction on all automated systems, replacing the cumbersome touch-tone interfaces with which we are all familiar. The ability to both talk through that interface as well as get immediate feedback from the data source either verbally or visually will be very important for increasing customer satisfaction, improving usability, and expanding automation into more complex applications.
At Intervoice, we're working on products that provide the ability to not only be reactive to customers' requests for retrieving information from the system, but also are proactive in pushing that information out. For instance, if you commute to work every day, you may not want to wait for the radio traffic report to tell you the location of accidents. Working with a Web service, applications can be enabled to monitor the route that you normally take, recognize when there is an accident or blockage on the route, and proactively notify you through both a speech and a data interface so that you can choose an alternative route before it's too late. This notification can occur on any device you choose - home phone, mobile phone, wireless PDA or PC.
The fact that the industry is coming together with a standard like SALT, which leverages a very large installed base of products from Microsoft and other companies, gives vendors such as ourselves the ability to focus on creating these kinds of solutions, without worrying about the platform. It lets us focus our 20 years of industry experience on the value of the solution and the service that we provide to the end customer. The fact that Microsoft is producing a platform and tools to work with speech greatly enhances this benefit by enabling Intervoice to transform the way people and information connect."
"SALT has the ability to make PDAs much more useful for mobility applications, and to really bring the power of the Internet to the PDA."
"Most of the speech technology installations that we've seen have been in call centers, which have provided good evidence for the return on investment in speech. But the call-center market, although it's been fairly profitable, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of call centers out there that could still benefit from speech, and I think there are going to be lots of other markets where speech recognition will be used. I think SALT will play a key role in the ability of speech technology to enter those new markets.
For instance, speech-enabling a PDA is another great application for SALT. Many people use their PDAs now only for basic contact management, scheduling, that sort of thing. If you get more complex than that, you run into limitations with the interface in dealing with either a small keyboard or a touch screen. SALT has the ability to make PDAs much more useful for mobility applications, and to really bring the power of the Internet to the PDA. And that's the beauty of speech - it's the most natural way to communicate.
SALT also provides a programming model that is familiar to millions of developers. So in terms of training a development ecosystem to work with the specification, which is really what creates an industry, there is a large base of talent out there already. All of the small software houses that create specialized applications for vertical markets, all of the people that will customize their Web pages to make speech recognition available, all of that development talent all over the world can not only have access to SALT, but use it to create cool applications that will drive the next wave of speech technology."
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