Adding the speech functionality to computer applications has been talked about for over a decade. Like other complex features, speech requires a lot of computing power and a fair amount of background support. Computers have come a long way in the last decade and so has a lot of the support for speech.
The Microsoft® .NET Speech Software Development Kit (SDK) has been in beta 1.0 for quite a while now. With beta 1.0, you could easily add voice recognition to your desktop, mobile, and other applications. It contained a number of tools to help you create and debug robust prompts and grammars (spoken text by the computer and recognizable answers). Other features of the first beta include:
- controls based on Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) that can be used with ASP.NET
- Extensions to Internet Explorer for speech
- A desktop version of the Microsoft Speech engine
- A testing version of a text-to-speech engine
- Sample applications and tutorials
Today Microsoft announced Beta 2.0 was being made available. With this second beta, Microsoft has stepped forward in order to provide a more standardized product. In beta one, Microsoft used a proprietary standard called SAPI (Speech Application Programming Interface). This has been replaced in beta 2 with a grammar format approved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The beta 2 of the Microsoft .NET Speech SDK includes a complete set of tools for creating and testing of voice-only telephony applications (using SALT). It also supports the development of multimodal speech applications on a variety of clients such as desktop PCs or Tablet PCs using Internet Explorer. This new beta release offers new enhancements to grammar and prompt creation and editing tools, and debugging tools for both telephony and multimodal applications. New features, such as World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards-compatible formats for grammar authoring, a prebuilt library of reusable speech telephony and application controls, and grammar libraries, provide developers with the tools that can be used to build and test robust speech applications. One final note about the speech SDK should be mentioned. This SDK has been developed for use with .NET. More importantly it integrates directly into Visual Studio .NET, thus making the tools easy to use for those already developing within the Visual Studio .NET environment.
Additional information about the complete set of new features and enhancements in the Microsoft .NET speech SDK 1.0 beta 2 can be found at:
Microsoft .NET Speech Platform
Microsoft today also announced a Joint Development Program for enterprise customers and partners committed to building and deploying applications built with the .NET Speech SDK on the Microsoft .NET Speech platform. The JDP is expected to provide real-world production-environment-level testing by some of the most demanding Microsoft customers and enterprise partners. These enterprise customers and partners will work closely with Microsoft to help ensure platform quality, reliability and scalability, and will deploy speech-enabled applications on the Microsoft platform. The technical preview of the .NET Speech platform, currently available only to JDP participants, will provide JDP participants with an early opportunity to work with the software and hardware components, resulting in competitive advantage for large-scale speech application deployments in the enterprise.
Kai-Fu Lee, corporate vice president of the Natural Interactive Services Division at Microsoft, states “Microsoft’s SALT-based technologies, which are designed to easily extend Web server infrastructure and tools to enable speech access via the telephone, PC, Pocket PC and eventually a wide range of devices, offer a compelling and cost-effective solution that will enable enterprises to create new business opportunities and enjoy the greatest return on investment.”
A broader beta release of the Microsoft .NET Speech platform is slated to be released midyear 2003. Among its features, the Microsoft platform will offer speech recognition functionality developed by Microsoft and that support both traditional telephones and multimodal devices. For telephony applications, the platform will contain voice only SALT interpreter software that will support speech-only access through normal telephones and cellular phones. To enable multimodal access and effectively provide both speech and visual input and output, a SALT-based speech interpreter may be added to smart clients such as the Tablet PC and Pocket PC, and potentially a wide range of other clients such as GUI cellular phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Speech-enabled Web applications running on the platform may be developed using extensions to Microsoft Visual Studio .NET, consisting of SALT-enabled ASP.NET controls for speech programming as well as sophisticated grammar and prompt editing tools for speech application creation.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.
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