Review: voxPilot voxBuilder ODE
voxBuilder ODE (Online Development Environment), as the name suggests, is a hosted VoiceXML Platform which allows developers to host/test VoiceXML-based Applications on a remote VoiceXML gateway. Similar to other web-based VoiceXML development platforms (such as Tellme Studio, BeVocal etc.), voxBuilder provides an external VoiceXML gateway and a configuration application to connect live telephony numbers/extensions with the VoiceXML-based telephony applications. voxPilot provides the environment free for the initial design and development. The application can then be deployed within Europe for a fee.
Local Calling Numbers for European Countries
voxBuilder supports testing of VoiceXML applications from multiple countries by providing local numbers. Currently voxBuilder provides local numbers for the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark (through UK), France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal (through UK), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the USA. Calling a US-based VoiceXML gateway can sometimes prove very expensive for international developers. Some hosting providers are starting to look at options such as Voice over IP support so that the internet can be used, but it is still progressive on VIP and frankly, nothing beats the experience of having the ability to showcase an interactive VoiceXML application over a phone.
Multiple language Support
Another key highlight of voxBuilder is that the development environment supports both Text-to-Speech and Speech Recognition in multiple languages. Currently supported languages include Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. This is a feature which would be very significant especially to European developers and other developers who would like to build their VoiceXML applications for multiple languages. voxBuilder's support for multiple languages is based on an extension attribute "xml:lang" (similar to VoiceXML 2.0) which is applied to the following VoiceXML 1.0 tags - <grammar>, <prompt> and <vxml>.
As we have discussed voxBuilder is a remotely hosted development environment, so we don't really have any installation. What we do need is a PC with a browser connected to the Internet to manage the different VoiceXML projects. voxBuilder allows VoiceXML project files to be hosted within its own environment or a remote project can be associated to a VoiceXML URL. If you use voxBuilder to remotely access your VoiceXML projects, you will need access to a web server that has its HTTP port (typically 80) outside the firewall. This will allow you to modify your static/dynamic VoiceXML application without constantly updating the project files in the voxBuilder.
First Looks - File Manager
(Click on the picture to enlarge)
The File Manager (shown above) is the key user interface to the voxBuilder. Its user interface, even though it is web-based, resembles the traditional desktop user interface (with menu drop downs and dialog boxes etc). As indicated earlier, voxBuilder allows a developer to separate different development activities into projects. The project can be hosted by voxBuilder itself. For a local project, voxBuilder requires the developer to upload all components of the VoiceXML application, including VoiceXML documents, grammar files, script files and audio files, to its remote server. A nice feature of the voxBuilder is that after a file has been uploaded, it can be remotely edited and validated through the web-based editor (shown below).
There is the restriction, however, of about 2MB storage space imposed by the voxBuilder. The local storage capability of voxBuilder could be useful for static projects, particularly proof-of-concept oriented prototype applications. A good practice that is enforced by voxBuilder is that every project should have an index.vxml which is treated as a starting point. If you would like to use a server-side scripting language such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Java Server Pages (JSP), Perl etc. you would select the project as a remote project, in which case you just need to provide a link to the index.vxml (or index.jsp etc.) page on your web server (e.g. http://myserver/myVoiceXMLProject/index.jsp).