W3C Multimodal Standard Brings Web to More People, More Ways

EMMA Facilitates Interaction Through Keyboard, Mouse, Voice, Speech, Touch, Gesture

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http://www.w3.org/ -- 10 February 2009 -- As part of ensuring the Web is available to all people on any device, W3C published a new standard today to enable interactions beyond the familiar keyboard and mouse. EMMA, the Extensible MultiModal Annotation specification, promotes the development of rich Web applications that can be adapted to more input modes (such as handwriting, natural language, and gestures) and output modes (such as synthesized speech) at lower cost.

Eyes-Busy, Hands-Free, and More

As more people begin to use the Web in more situations, opportunities for multimodal interactions have multiplied. Early handheld devices allowed input through stylus or voice. Touch screens and devices that detect motion and orientation are increasingly commonplace in some markets. EMMA allows developers to separate the "logic" layer of an application from the "interaction" layer, making it easier to adapt applications to new scenarios.

In addition, because some input modalities are more prone to "noise" than others (for example due to variations in spoken language or handwriting, or simply background noise), EMMA helps developers manage the varying degrees of confidence one might have in input information. EMMA allows developers to account for ambiguity in user input so that during later stages of processing, it is possible to select from among competing hypotheses and overcome errors. EMMA also makes supplementary information about interactions (such as the interaction date) available to developers.

Multimodal Benefits Mobile Access and Accessibility

The EMMA standard will be particularly important in the mobile industry. By following EMMA standards and multimodal design, applications are more likely to be adaptable to the mobile context. For instance, most cell phones are capable of receiving both voice and text input. With EMMA, it will be easier to create applications that can take advantage of text, voice, or both.

Applications designed to be multimodal are also more likely to benefit people with disabilities. Multimodal input systems provide alternate methods for Web interaction and access for people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities. Those without keyboard operation abilities can rely on speech recognition; those who use touch commands without firm authority may rely on EMMA mechanisms for interpreting uncertainty.

EMMA was developed by the Multimodal Interaction Working Group which included the following W3C Members: Aspect Communications, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Department of Information and Communication Technology - University of Trento, Deutsche Telekom AG, France Telecom, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) Gmbh, Hewlett Packard Company, Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, International Webmasters Association / HTML Writers Guild (IWA-HWG), Korea Association of Information & Telecommunication, Korea Institute of Science & Technology (KIST), Kyoto Institute of Technology, Loquendo, S.p.A., Microsoft Corp., Nuance Communications, Inc., Openstream, Inc., Siemens AG, Université catholique de Louvain, V-Enable, Inc., Voxeo, and Waterloo Maple.

About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan, and has seventeen outreach offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org