Voxeo Puts API in the Clouds

Voxeo this week introduced Tropo, an in-the-cloud development platform that lets users create speech and telephony applications in Groovy, JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Ruby, with other programming languages to follow.

The application programming interface (API) is designed as an alternative to the standard XML- and VoiceXML-based platforms that have become so common in the last few years.

“There is no right way to develop a speech application,” explains Jonathan Taylor, chief executive officer of Voxeo. “VoiceXML has been successful and seen massive adoption, but there are also people who use other tools to develop applications.”

Tropo, which is built on the same technology that powers Voxeo’s Prophesy and VoiceObjects platforms, makes it extremely easy for people who use other programming languages to create and deploy speech and telephony applications, or to add speech to existing applications, according to Taylor.

That’s because the API is being offered as an in-the-cloud, hosted service. Developers create an account at www.tropo.com and Voxeo stores all the necessary files, including scripts, audio files, and programming notes on its servers. All the editing, application management, and application debugging features are also hosted on Voxeo’s servers.

“At Voxeo, we are running the majority of the infrastructure for you in our data center,” says Taylor, who notes that the platform’s name, Tropo, is short for the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere where the clouds reside.

Tropo is currently in beta and will be free to use for the next few months. When the beta period expires, production use will start at three cents per minute and will not require contracts or up-front costs.

“It’s extremely cost-effective to use,” Taylor says. As such, he expects it to be a popular choice of small to midsize businesses, start-ups, and temporary or occasional users.

Applications can incorporate inbound calling via the public switched telephone network, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Skype, and iNum, while also providing appropriate connections for outbound calling. Capabilities include robust call control, playing and recording audio, touchtone entry, speech recognition, text-to-speech, and mashups with Web services. Planned application capabilities include call recording, conferencing, and Web services.

Voxeo is offering incentives for developers to try out Tropo, and many have already answered the challenge.  Sample applications on the Tropo Web site include voice mashups that read news feeds, an application that gives users estimated arrival times of trains on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, weather reports, and even a Monty Python quote server.

“Tropo is an evolutionary change in application development,” Taylor says. “It’s a full-fledged platform that can build any telephone application you can imagine, and I’m sure even some you can’t imagine.”

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