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  • December 1, 2002
  • By Jonathan Eisenzopf
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from http://www.webreference.com

Overview

In Part I of our quickstart VoiceXML tutorial, we will learn how to sign-up as a Tellme.com developer and write our first interactive VoiceXML application.

Adding VoiceXML to your Web site can be an effective way to make your content accessible to many more customers. This is Part I of a comprehensive tutorial on the VoiceXML specification, so get ready to have some fun and be sure to come back for Part II where we will develop a complete dynamic VoiceXML application. In this tutorial, we will create and launch our first live VoiceXML application in a few simple steps. In fact, you don't even have to learn VoiceXML to get started. You can follow the steps in this tutorial to register as a Tellme developer, paste in the example source code, and dial the 800 number to test your new application.

Examples

As we step through each code example, you will also be able to dial into Tellme and demo the code live on the Mother of Perl Tellme extension. Simply dial 1-800-555-tell, wait for the Tellme menu, and dial 1-73759. Press 1 to select the examples for tutorial 20. You will hear a greeting and a list of the examples. Press the number that corresponds with the example in the tutorial to demo it. For example, when you see:

Example 1.

You will be able to interact with the source code by dialing the Mother of Perl Tellme extension and pressing 1 on your phone. At the end of the example, you will be taken back to the Mother of Perl menu. Each example is also linked to the XML source code file where you can examine the file in your Web browser, or launch it directly into your favorite XML editor.

In addition to the live examples, you will find the source code for all examples in the tutorial20.zip file, which you can use for free to create your own VoiceXML applications.

VoiceXML

VoiceXML is an XML grammar developed by the VoiceXML Forum. VoiceXML makes it possible to access Internet content by phone and to develop speech-based telephony applications. The forum was founded by AT&T, IBM, Lucent, and Motorola and is now made up of several hundred corporate members.

Until now telephony solutions required specially trained technicians to install, configure and maintain them. Because the language was developed as an XML format, developers can integrate this new language with their existing tools. This brings telephony integration within reach of many Web developers. In fact, Webreference.com now has its very own VoiceXML channel available at http://webref.com/news thanks to Weblog 1.71.

Back to the Basics

While version 1.0 of the specification has been around since March of 2000, VoiceXML has not garnered as much hype and acceptance as WAP. Recently, however, users and developers are realizing that it's time to get back to that basic form of communication. The telephone!

That's right. The international telecommunications backbone has a common operating platform that we can fully utilize without any additional work. Almost everyone understands how to use a phone, so I decided to look into what was available for creating applications for the telephone.

Voice Portals

What I found were several companies that provide managed voice portal services to customers who want to develop voice applications but do not want to build and manage their own infrastructure. Another appealing feature is their online developer programs that allow you to test your applications for free before having to commit significant resources. This is especially helpful when many companies are still evaluating the benefit of rolling out a voice portal or application.

Tellme

Currently, Tellme.com is well funded and probably the leader in the voice portal services market. They provide free online developer tools, extensive documentation, libraries of code and tutorials to help you get started.

Once you have registered as a developer, you can immediately start coding your VoiceXML applications and testing them for free via their toll-free Tellme Studio test platform. After you've tested your application, you can launch it onto its own Tellme extension, which makes it available to anyone in the US via the main Tellme 800 number.

Platform Incompatibilities

One thing to note is that VoiceXML applications developed for Tellme.com may not work on another platform because of differences that presently exist between the VoiceXML implementations, so beware. The primary differences are in the grammar definition languages, which we will discuss in more detail later in the tutorial.



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