March 2, 2021
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Review: BeVocal Cafe

  • By Hitesh Seth
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Similar to Tellme Studio, BeVocal Cafe's prime role is to provide VoiceXML developers with a hosted telephony environment that integrates multiple speech technologies, including a VoiceXML interpreter, speech recognition, a Text-to-Speech engine and speech verification.

Support for Standards

BeVocal Cafe supports VoiceXML application development based on the VoiceXML 1.0 Specification and also provides partial support for the VoiceXML 2.0 draft specification. From a grammar perspective, Cafe supports grammars developed in multiple languages, including support for ABNF, Nuance GSL, XML and JSGF (Java Speech Grammar Format) based grammars.

First looks - File Management

An essential aspect of a hosted VoiceXML development platform is to provide a basic tool for configuring a VoiceXML application based on a remote URL or providing an area where VoiceXML documents can be temporary stored. The File Management tool provides that functionality. Both local files and remote URL-based application development (with validation of the VoiceXML documents) is supported. On the Cafe site's file area, developers can store about 2MB of content including grammar files, VoiceXML documents, text files (for input to the batch mode Vocal Scripter, reviewed later), JavaScript scripts, etc. This tool is the key to the rest of the tools along with one of the VoiceXML documents locally stored or the URLs will need to be activated for testing by the Cafe environment.

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"Calling your Application"

After you have either uploaded your VoiceXML application through the File Management utility or you have linked your external web server URL and activated the appropriate application, you are all set to "call" your application to test it. A number of call-in options exist; for North American developers BeVocal provides a toll-free number - (877) 33-VOCAL; International users can use the non toll-free counterpart, +1 (408) 907-7328; for European callers, BeVocal has also provided a UK number (+44) 20.7961.3985 as well. When you are connected you will be prompted for your 4-digit pin (which you would have set on registration) and optionally your user ID which is typically your 7-digit phone number (a simple shortcut which doesn't require the user to enter their user ID is to use the last 7 digits of your caller-ID as your user ID).

Once you are ready for your application to be available to other users you can make your application available on the BeVocal consumer Portal (1-800-4BVOCAL). To access the application, your demo users only need to provide a demo ID (which is configured in the demo configuration step).

As we will see later in this article, if you prefer to test your application using the browser-based interface you can do so using the Vocal Scripter tool. The Scripter simulates a call but through a simpler text-based interface. This can be useful for instance if you are constantly refining your VoiceXML application.

Vocal Player

As part of the execution of the VoiceXML application in the BeVocal Cafe environment, an audio recording is stored for the calls. Using the Vocal Player tool, these recordings can then be played and analyzed for any enhancements/changes that are required. From the user interface of the Vocal Player, it appears that the recording is broken into multiple, smaller .wav files, which are then played in sequence. A suggestion for the next release of the Cafe would be an option to download a combined .wav file to a PC so that the user can provide that as a reference to their end users for demonstration, or to serve as a "speech mockup". Vocal Player is implemented as a Java Applet, and requires JMF (Java Media Framework) to be installed and configured in the CLASSPATH on the local machine (the jar file containing the JMF implementation is available on the BeVocal Cafe site but requires manual configuration).

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This article was originally published on November 5, 2002

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