Opinion & Editorial

Amy Neustein Perspectives on linguistic technology: Ring in the New Year
By Amy Neustein, Ph.D.
February/March 2002

Telephones gain a new improved technology for accessing the Web

Using telephones to access the Internet makes obvious sense: with 1.5 billion phone customers spanning the globe, telephones boast several times the number of users claimed by PCs and handheld devices put together. Now Verascape, Inc. offers a better means of access to a wealth of Web-based information to anyone who uses a telephone. The Illinois-based firm's new high-capacity, fully integrated, turnkey and scalable speech platform, called Vera Serve, is the first to conform to the latest industry-wide XML standards (Voice XML 2.0), and responds to voice commands rather than keystrokes, allowing for such diverse uses as checking a stock price, verifying flight information, or locating an exotic restaurant - all simply by speaking into any telephone.

Such a platform has clear advantages: containing all the speech recognition software, servers, and interfaces needed to access both PSTN and IP networks, it enables multiple custom voice applications and is ideal for enterprise customers looking for an alternative to traditional voice-enabled Interactive Voice Response (IVR), which can be costly and cumbersome.

Leading makers of Voice XML application and server software - Audium, Shop Talk, and Indicast, just to name a few - have joined Verascape to deliver complete VoiceXML solutions. Last October, at the seventh annual SpeechTEK Exposition and Conference in New York City, attendees were able to see first hand the combined power of Verascape's platform and Indicast's voice portal applications that provide breaking news, sports, stock prices, and entertainment news, as well as other voice-enabled applications such as voice-activated dialing and audio e-mail.

The combination of speech platforms and voice applications means that a web host no longer has to custom build voice capabilities from scratch. With the new advances, practically any URL host can tap into voice technology and make its web pages voice-enabled. This means that time consuming Internet searches for products and information, with the tedium and delay of going back and forth between links, will someday be done primarily through voice commands over a standard or cellular phone. Whether one might be researching a medical problem or trying to find the right gift for an old friend, surfing the Web would be navigated via voice commands rather than by clicking a mouse - and at the same time, one would no longer need to be connected via modem to obtain Internet access. Even Carpel Tunnel Syndrome resulting from overuse of the PC might become a relic of the past though voices hoarse from overuse of the voice Web might become the fashionable sign of the coming times.

Amy Neustein, Ph.D., is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Speech Technology Magazine, and is president and founder of Linguistic Technology Systems.