W3C For Immediate Release

W3C Extends Speech Framework to Asian Languages

SSML 1.1 Enhances Asian Language Support and Author Controls

http://www.w3.org/ — 7 September 2010 — The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today extended speech on the Web to an enormous new market by improving support for Asian languages and multi-lingual voice applications. The Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML 1.1) Recommendation provides control over voice selection as well as speech characteristics such as pronunciation, volume, and pitch. SSML is part of W3C's Speech Interface Framework for building voice applications, which also includes the widely deployed VoiceXML and the Pronunciation Lexicon (for providing speech engines guidance on proper pronunciation).

"With SSML 1.1 there is an intentional focus on Asian language support," said Dan Burnett, Co-Chair of the Voice Browser Working Group and Director of Speech Technologies and Standards at Voxeo, "including Chinese languages, Japanese, Thai, Urdu, and others, to provide a wide deployment potential. With SSML 1.0 we already had strong traction in North America and western Europe, so this focus makes SSML 1.1 incredibly strong globally. We are really pleased to have many collaborators in China, in particular, focusing on SSML improvements and iterations."

The multilingal enhancements in this version of SSML result from discussions at W3C Workshops held in China, Greece, and India. SSML 1.1 also provides application designers greater control over voice selection and handling of content in unexpected languages.

Estimates suggest that around 85% of voice response (IVR) systems deployed in North America and Western Europe use VoiceXML and SSML. The new version of SSML will open significant new markets, thanks to the improved support for non-Western European languages. A number of North American and European vendors of text-to-speech (TTS) products have indicated they expect to support SSML 1.1 within the coming year.

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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. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 350 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 additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/

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