SALT Forum Completes Version 1.0 of SALT Specification and Announces New SALT-Based Products
On Monday, July 15, the SALT Forum reached a new milestone with its announcement of the finalized and published Version 1.0 of the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) specification. Now available on the SALT Forum website (http://www.saltforum.org), the specification defines a set of lightweight tags as extensions to commonly used Web-based programming languages in order to speech-enable telephony and multimodal applications. This allows developers to add speech interfaces to Web content and applications using familiar tools and techniques, reducing development time and costs. The SALT specification is designed to work equally well on traditional computers, handheld devices such as PDAs, home electronics such as video recorders, telematics devices such as in-car navigation systems, and communications devices such as mobile phones. Since its inception in October 2001 by Cisco, Comverse, Intel, Microsoft, Philips and SpeechWorks, the SALT Forum has attracted over 50 members committed to developing a royalty-free international standard for speech-enabling telephony and multimodal applications. On July 15, The Forum announced that eight more companies have joined as Contributors to the group including Aliant Telecom, Cambridge VoiceTech, Carnegie Mellon University, Fonix Corporation, InfoTalk Corporation, Multi-Modal Technologies, SnowShore Networks and Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless along with other carriers, are counting on the SALT specification to create a wealth of new content and services to serve their customers. "We expect that the SALT 1.0 specification will help to accelerate deployment of multimodal applications and provide a more natural user interface for mobile devices," said Jim Straight, Vice President for Wireless Data and Internet Services at Verizon Wireless. In conjunction with the SALT specification's release this past week, several Forum members also revealed new SALT-based products. Philips announced the availability of a SALT browser, based on JAVA-2, which supports the voice subset of the SALT specification. The company also announced that it finalized the first prototype of a SALT-based telephony platform. Kirusa is using their SALT-based multimodal platform, integrated with SandCherry's SoftServer platform for application resource brokering, to showcase compelling multimodal wireless applications built with SALT. HeyAnita has developed the FreeSpeech SALT Browser, which enables its FreeSpeech Platform to support applications built using SALT-based development tools, such as the Microsoft .NET Speech SDK and Visual Studio .NET. In addition, Carnegie Mellon University is developing an open source SALT browser as part of its OpenSALT project and other Forum members have announced plans to support the SALT specification in the near future. "The SALT Forum has proven to be uniquely effective in its mission to swiftly address the technical challenges associated with speech-enabling Web content and applications," said SALT Forum representative Rob Kassel. "Now that Version 1.0 of the SALT specification is completed, Web developers can begin fulfilling the promise of providing information access through speech anytime, anywhere, in an increasingly mobile world." So what's next for the SALT Forum? With the SALT specification complete, Version 1.0 is now currently being presented to an international standards body for evaluation as the basis for a full international standard for speech interfaces to telephony and multimodal applications. The group's aim is to support the increasing pervasiveness of Web sites and applications by making Web content easily available over any device, driving speech as the interaction method of choice. Currently, the best way to access Web content is with a large screen and full keyboard, a scenario that is not always effective with today's mobile world and current wireless devices. Speech remains the most natural form of communication and therefore is a logical method for humans to interact with computers. The SALT Forum believes that those developers who have not yet started speech application development will be most interested in the SALT specification, since it allows them to prepare for a Web-based future. Furthermore, the SALT Forum hopes this specification will evolve speech application development from a niche market to millions of Web developers world wide. By defining a series of tags to existing, commonly used Web programming languages, the SALT specification provides an attractive development environment for Web developers that want to speech-enable Web applications. Dan Miller, an analyst with the Kelsey Group, a voice and wireless consulting firm, agrees. "The SALT 1.0 specification provides application developers with a documented way to leverage existing Web markup languages," he said. "Its release by the SALT Forum marks a major milestone that should accelerate integration of automated speech, multimodal and telephony applications."