World Wide Web Consortium Issues VoiceXML 2.0 and Speech Recognition Grammar as W3C Recommendations

Critical components of the W3C Speech Interface Framework now complete

Contact Americas, Australia --
Janet Daly, <janet@w3.org>, +1.617.253.5884 or +1.617.253.2613
Contact Europe --
Marie-Claire Forgue, <mcf@w3.org>, +33.492.38.75.94
Contact Asia --
Yasuyuki Hirakawa <yasuyuki@w3.org>, +81.466.49.1170

(also available in French and Japanese)

Testimonials are also available.

http://www.w3.org/ -- 16 March 2004 -- Giving voice to the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published VoiceXML 2.0 and Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS) as W3C Recommendations. The goal of VoiceXML 2.0 is to bring the advantages of Web-based development and content delivery to interactive voice response applications. SRGS is key to VoiceXML's support for speech recognition, and is used by developers to describe end-users responses to spoken prompts.

Today's announcement marks the advancement to Recommendation status of the first two specifications in W3C's Speech Interface Framework. Aimed at the world's estimated two billion fixed line and mobile phones, W3C's Speech Interface Framework will allow an unprecedented number of people to use any telephone to interact with appropriately designed Web-based services via key pads, spoken commands, listening to pre-recorded speech, synthetic speech and music.

"The completion of VoiceXML 2.0 and SRGS marks an exciting milestone in the convergence of telecom technologies and the Web. Historically, there were both technical and cultural gaps between the way voice-based systems have evolved and that of the Internet and Web, leaving the information available only to voice systems or the Web, " explained Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. " With the development of the W3C Speech Interface Framework, including VoiceXML 2.0 and SRGS, we're now able to integrate and benefit from the strengths of both groups - the power and impact of industrial research and broad product testing and deployment, and the extensibility and openness of technical solutions that are consistent with Web technical principles and can scale accordingly. "

A World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendation is understood by industry and the Web community at large as a Web standard. Each Recommendation is a stable specification developed by a W3C Working Group and reviewed by the W3C Membership. Recommendations promote interoperability of Web technologies of the Web by explicitly conveying the industry consensus formed by the Working Group.

VoiceXML 2.0 and SRGS Lay the Foundations for the W3C Speech Interface Framework

In the W3C Speech Interface Framework, VoiceXML controls how the application interacts with the user, while the Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) is used for spoken prompts and the Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS) for guiding the speech recognizers via grammars that describe the expected user responses. Other specifications in the Framework include Voice Browser Call Control (CCXML), which provides telephony call control support for VoiceXML and other dialog systems, and Semantic Interpretation for Speech Recognition, which defines how speech grammars bind to application semantics.

VoiceXML 2.0 Delivers Voice and Interactivity to the W3C Speech Interface Framework

VoiceXML 2.0 allows developers to create audio dialogs that feature synthesized speech, digitized audio, recognition of spoken and Dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF, or touch-tone) key input, recording of spoken input, telephony, and mixed-initiative conversations. VoiceXML is downloaded from HTTP servers in the same way as HTML. This means that application developers can take full advantage of widely deployed and industry proven Web technologies.

"VoiceXML 2.0 has the power to change the way phone-based information and customer services are developed. No longer will we we have to press 'one' for this or 'two' for that. Instead, we will be able to make selections and provide information by speech," explained Dave Raggett, W3C Voice Browser Activity Lead. "In addition, VoiceXML 2.0 creates opportunities for people with visual impairments or those needing Web access while keeping their hands and eyes free for other things, such as getting directions while driving."

SRGS Drives Robust Recognition of User Responses

The Speech Recognition Grammar Specification--SRGS-- allows applications to specify the words and phrases that users are prompted to speak. This enables robust speaker independent recognition.

SRGS covers both speech and DTMF input. DTMF input is valuable in noisy conditions or when the social context makes it awkward to speak. Speech recognizers are generally able to report the degree of confidence -- that is, the likelihood of having correctly recognized the word or phrase - and may provide the most likely alternatives when the recognizer is uncertain as to which of them the user actually said.

SRGS is applicable to more than speech and has been successfully applied to handwriting recognition where the user input is a constrained set of words.

Adoption Rate of VoiceXML 2.0 and SRGS Already Industry Wide

In order to advance to W3C's Recommendation status, there must be evidence of independent interoperable implementations - it must be proven to work. In the case of VoiceXML 2.0, the implementation evidence is extraordinary, with at least eight known implementations in both prototype and fully released products. A complete list of current implementors is available. The implementation report for SRGS includes at least six complete, independent implementations.

There is an extensive, public test suite. While the initial version contained roughly 300 tests, the final version contains over 600 tests. This complements the test suite provided with the Speech Recognition Grammar Specification and the test suite for Speech Synthesis Markup Language which became a W3C Candidate Recommendation in December 2003. Test suites for the remaining specifications in the W3C Speech Interface Framework, including Semantic Interpretation for Speech Recognition and CCXML, are under development by the W3C Voice Browser Working Group and will be published over the next few months.

In addition to the continued work on the remainder of the Speech Interface Framework, the Voice Browser Working Group is already hard at work designing the requirements for the next major version of the dialog markup language, which will build upon the success of VoiceXML 2.0 and incorporate ideas from SALT, XHTML+Voice, and other W3C Member contributions.

The W3C Voice Browser Working Group is among the largest and most active in W3C. Its participants include: Aspect Communications, BeVocal, Canon, Comverse Technology, Convedia, ERCIM, France Telecom, HeyAnita, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, IWA-HWG, Loquendo, Microsoft, MITRE, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola, Nuance Communications, Openstream, SAP, Scansoft, Siemens, Snowshore Networks, Sun Microsystems, Telera, Tellme Networks, Verscape, Vocalocity, VoiceGenie Technologies, Voxeo, and Voxpilot.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, nearly 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see http://www.w3.org/