W3C OKs Speech Standard For Mobile Devices


Hoping to improve the way mobile devices handle the nuances of human communications, the W3C has approved a language for synthesized speech in Web interactions as a standard.


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) 1.0.


SSML allows VoiceXML-based services to be accessed via textphones for people with speaking or hearing impairments. The document will also help software developers build applications for such gadgets as mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).


SSML 1.0 is a key component of the W3C Speech Interface Framework, a collection of rules for building voice applications for the Web. It joins existing standards such as the W3C Recommendations VoiceXML 2.0 and Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS), created by the W3C's Voice Browser Working Group.


The group, which includes Sun Microsystems ( Quote , Chart ), IBM, Intel ( Quote , Chart ) and Microsoft ( Quote , Chart ), is working on two other specifications, Semantic Interpretation and Call Control XML (CCXML) to round out the Speech Interface Framework.


The specs will be used in concert to improve the development of applications based on languages such as Java, the leading platform for vendors who make Web-enabled handheld computers and mobile phones.


Such devices have several limitations, from the difficulty of manually operating them because of their small form factors, to the lack of quality rich media applications. Members of the W3C, many of whom work for companies building the software or hardware products they aim to improve, announced the news ahead of next week's SpeechTek Conference in New York.


"I am excited about the progress the Voice Browser Working Group has made in providing improved access to services over the telephone through the use of Web technologies," said W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, who will be delivering a keynote address at the SpeechTEK Conference next week. He added, "companies can now offer Web access to their customers via the telephone as well as from a personal computer."


Vendors and working group members that have already implemented SSML include HP ( Quote , Chart ), IBM, Microsoft, SAP ( Quote , Chart ) and Sun.

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