Forum gives voice to Web applications

Voice and data convergence took a step forward last week when industry heavyweights got together to form a standard for adding...

Voice and data convergence took a step forward last week when industry heavyweights got together to form a standard for adding speech input and output to Web applications.

Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Comverse and Philips are among the inaugural members of the Speech Application Language Tags (Salt) Forum. Their aim is to develop cross-platform multimodal access to Web pages and applications using royalty-free extensions to mark-up languages such as HTML, XHTML and XML with the aid of lightweight Salt tags.

This will mean that current applications will not have to be rewritten to allow users to interact with their computers multimodally - using speech or input devices, such as keyboard, mouse and stylus - to suit their circumstances.

Alistair Woodman, director of marketing for Cisco's Voice Technology Centre, explained, "The ability to add speech to graphical applications will contribute to further growth in the rapidly expanding VoIP [Voice Over IP] market and will enable delivery of innovative and interoperable value-added communications and services over a single packet network."

Microsoft will offer Web developer tools to implement Salt, including providing Salt extensions for Visual Studio.net, ASP.net, Internet Explorer and Pocket Internet Explorer, said Kai Fu-Li, vice-president of Microsoft's Natural Interactive Services Division.

The Salt Forum hopes to make the standard specification available in the first quarter of 2002 and submit it to a standards body by the middle of the year.

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