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Report: VoiceXML Planet 2002 Conference & Expo, Day 2

  • October 4, 2002
  • By Hitesh Seth
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Rest of the day

VoiceXML based speech application development is a collaboration of multiple skill-sets blended together. In his session "VoiceXML forManagers", Dr. Jim Larson stressed this and defined a VoiceXML Team to comprise:

  • callers
  • dialog designers
  • VoiceXML programmers
  • Voice Talent
  • grammar writer
  • speech recognition specialist
  • QA specialist
  • Manager
  • and of course a Sponsor
He encouraged managers to establish performance (word error rate, prompt responsiveness) and preference metrics (help facility, understandability of synthesized speech, willingness to pay) to understand the usefulness of a Voice Application.

Comparison between the world of media and speech applications trickled a couple of times during the show. Specifically, Dr. Larson compared the creation of a persona (personality, character, disposition, tone, and attitude) of a speech application to the creation, casting and acting of a character in a film. His VUI guidelines included the following:

  • avoid listening to long prompts by using barge-in
  • use event handlers (help, nomatch, noinput) to help the user overcome speech recognition errors and to level menu hierarchies by using a broader grammar (instead of the traditional nested DTMF hierarchies)

The "Obstacles and Challenges for adoption of VoiceXML" panel discussion featured a wide range of experts. A couple of discussion points were brought forward

  • Quality of Speech Synthesis has become much better and it still needs to get even better.
  • Natural language dialogs are hard to achieve with VoiceXML and should generally be avoided.
  • In all, there are definitely areas of improvement for the VoiceXML specification and the core speech recognition and synthesis technology, but VoiceXML is relatively feature-rich (functionally) and robust for real-world applications to be developed and deployed today.
  • There is a need for a richer set of development tools which can be used to model, generate and debug speech applications.
  • There is a need for a conformance validation test suite to ensure consistency in VoiceXML Interpreters and platforms.
  • VoiceXML-based applications have been in development and production for quite some time.
  • There needs to be broader awareness about successful VoiceXML application-based case studies.

Other highlights for the day included the following:

  • Design patterns such as MVC (model-view-controller), Singleton, J2EE Session facade can be applied to build carrier grade VoiceXML applications (Developing Applications using VoiceXML)
  • Telecommunication Carriers, Enterprises and Telematics were identified as key business opportunities for developing VoiceXML. In particular, I liked Bryan Michael's representation of the potential related to Telematics services where he divided the opportunity into two buckets: front seat market (hands-free apps, such as an email reader, voice dialing, voice activated Voicemail, traffic, driving directions, flight information etc.) and the back seat market (entertainment applications such as streaming music, games, music trivia etc.). 
  • Chris Bajorek stressed the need for a modular automated VoiceXML Application test architecture to a simulate real-world environment
  • Company Stability and VoiceXML standard support emerged as the key factors in picking up your Voice hosting provider. (The World of Voice ASPs)

Day 2 in Pictures

About Hitesh Seth

Hitesh Seth is Chief Technology Evangelist for Silverline Technologies, a global eBusiness and mobile solutions consulting and integration services firm. He is a columnist on VoiceXML technology in XML Journal and regularly writes for other technology publications including Java Developers Journal and Web Services Journal on technology topics such as J2EE, Microsoft .NET, XML, Wireless Computing, Speech Applications, Web Services & Integration. 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 hitesh.seth@silverline.com.

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