James A. Larson
program co-chair, SpeechTEK 2021
James A. Larson, Ph.D., is co-chair of the W3C Voice Browser Working Group and chair of the authoring subgroup of the W3C Multimodal Interaction Working Group. He writes the Forward Thinking column for Speech Technology magazine, and teaches courses in the user interface design and implementation at the Portland State University and the Oregon Health and Sciences University. He is Vice President of Larson Technical Services, a speech application consulting and training company.
Articles by James A. Larson
When Conversational Assistants Meet: Delegating, Mediating, and Channeling
28 Feb 2023
How can voice assistants be made to cooperate with each other?
Conversational Agents Move Toward Interoperability
25 Jul 2022
On the path from garden walls to interoperable open agents.
Move over GUI, Hello SVUI
28 Jun 2022
Your Voice Tells All
11 Mar 2022
Speech app developers are finding ways to interpret your feelings and conditions.
An Open Letter to Voice Agent Platform Developers
23 Nov 2021
You're at the vanguard of a burgeoning movement.
Open Voice Network Hosts Interoperable Conversational Agent Workshop
25 Jun 2021
The workshop explored approaches for implementing interoperability of voice applications within and across platforms and produced a manifesto for the tone and general direction for future voice processing.
3 Trends That Will Shape IVA Development
23 Jun 2021
Voice assistants are poised to become more specialized and less platform-specific
Businesses’ Voice Assistants Are Coming to a Smart Speaker Near You
01 Nov 2020
Soon it will be de rigueur for every business to have its own IVA.
As Voice Assistants Multiply, When Will We Get a Registry?
01 May 2020
VARs can help tame the Wild West of voice assistants
Technology Is Making Dialogues More Life-Like, Conversational Interaction Speakers Note
17 Feb 2020
Advanced speech synthesis, analytics, and dialogue design are improving customer and company interactions, conference speakers agree.
Beware the Limitations of Machine Learning
29 Jan 2020
Systems that use only machine training will struggle with more complex requests
Q&A: Scott Hoglund on Conversational Banking
04 Dec 2019
Learn how conversational technologies are changing the way we bank, and how Discover is embracing this trend to better support companies and employees.
Q&A: David Morand on Integrating a Contextual AI Assistant with VoiceXML
27 Nov 2019
If you need a dialogue engine that will allow you to develop next-gen conversational IVR applications while being compatible with the VoiceXML standard, this is a must read.
Q&A: Sam Ringer Says the Revolution Is Coming — the Medium-Term Future of AI and ML
12 Nov 2019
Current AI and machine learning (ML) technologies are starting to change the way we build and innovate. However, the power of our current ML technologies is not fixed. Sam Ringer will explore where ML is at the moment.
Q&A: Greg Stack on Blazing a Trail to Successful AI Migration
05 Nov 2019
Greg Stack, Vice President, Speech-Soft Solutions, will be presenting at SpeechTEK 2020. Conference co-chair, Jim Larson, caught up with him to talk about "Blazing a Trail to Successful AI Migration."
Q&A: Dr. Nava Shaked on Evaluation, Testing Methodology & Best Practices for Speech-Based Interaction Systems
08 Oct 2019
Get a sneak-peak into Dr. Nava Shaked's SpeechTEK workshop in this Q&A. Learn everything you need to know about evaluation, testing, and best practices for speech-based interactions.
Q&A: Dr. Michael McTear on Building a Conversational Chatbot for Google Assistant Using Dialogflow
01 Oct 2019
Get a sneak-peek of Dr. Michael McTear's SpeechTEK workshop and learn how to build a conversational chatbot for Google Assistant using Dialogflow. Like what you see? Head over to speechtek.com.
Q&A: Bruce Balentine on the Basics of Conversational Chatbots
26 Sep 2019
Conversational chatbots may be the future (or even the present) but Bruce Balentine is taking developers back to basics in his workshop at SpeechTEK in April. Learn how to build chatbots that get results.
Q&A: David Attwater on the Ins and Outs of Conversation Design
24 Sep 2019
Everything you need to know about conversational design. Jim Larson talked to David Attwater, Senior Scientist, Enterprise Integration Group about his upcoming workshop, AI, and how human is too human?
Q&A: Deborah Dahl on Natural Language Understanding
18 Sep 2019
Jim Larson talked to Dr. Deborah Dahl, Principal, Conversational Technologies about the increasing importance and capabilities of natural language processing, speech recognition, and
Voice-First User Interfaces Speak to the Omnichannel Future
15 Jul 2019
Screen- and voice-oriented devices are becoming one and the same
Machine Learning and Innovative Speech Applications Dominate Conversational Interaction Conference
20 Mar 2019
The 2019 Conversational Interaction Conference emphasized innovative applications using the latest speech technologies, alternative architectures to ease the creation of conversational apps, and best practices for designing speech dialogs.
Is App Development Moving Toward User Interface Management Systems?
26 Nov 2018
App developers' jobs might be getting less complicated, again
8 Ways Advances in Speech Recognition Will Affect Our Lives
30 Jul 2018
From karaoke assistance to talking robots, here's a roundup of speech industry developments you'll be hearing about soon
Intelligent Agents Are Poised to Change the Conversation
10 Nov 2017
These apps can already understand what you say; soon they'll understand who you are and how you're feeling
What Will Future User Interfaces Look Like?
24 Apr 2017
As we enter the 'immersive age,' we need to prepare for a whole new way of interacting
Interactive Text Response: A Smart Update of IVR
10 Nov 2016
ITR systems let callers blend texting and talking
In a Mobile World, Voice and Graphical User Interfaces Need to Blend
14 Jun 2016
Developers have to design both visual and voice experiences for today's devices
Many Gadgets, One Interface
09 Nov 2015
In the smart home of the (near) future, a unified user interface—letting you touch, type, or speak—will control all of your systems and devices
Role-Play Apps Star in New Technologies
08 May 2015
It's time to leverage developers' know-how to improve lives
With Product Companion Apps, the Mobile Future Looks Even Brighter
10 Nov 2014
Up-and-coming tools add new accessibility to product information.
Voice XML Brings IVR into the Future
30 Apr 2014
Continuing demand gives these applications an impetus for improvement.
Eyes-Busy, Hands-Busy Computing
15 Nov 2013
What we all have in common with an HVAC repairman.
Assessing Speech-Enabled Help Apps
01 May 2013
Users seeking voice-enabled service and support have several choices.
A New Age for Computer Interactions
10 Nov 2012
Advances emphasize the role of the human mind.
Job Descriptions for Personal Assistants
10 Jul 2012
Radar O'Reilly is a tough act to follow.
Balancing Content and Control
01 Mar 2012
When consumers use multiple devices, give help where it's needed.
IVR Has a Black Eye
01 Nov 2011
Stop using frugal policies and start satisfying customers.
Multimodal User Interfaces Supplanting Voice-Only Apps
01 Jul 2011
Trend driven by statistical language models, speaker verification, video clips, and multilingual apps
Combining IVR and Smartphones
01 Mar 2011
Take advantage of today's visual displays and develop consumer product apps
Speech in My Pocket
01 Nov 2010
With the smartphone's growing popularity comes a slew of new speech apps.
Adding a Voice to Tweets
01 Jul 2010
Social media can incorporate voice to better engage users.
05 Mar 2010
Setting the standard for determining what a caller wants
Legal Issues Surrounding Speech
01 Nov 2009
Who will get the ball rolling on creating the rules?
Beyond Speech Recognition
27 Aug 2009
User property extraction systems pull more information.
On-Demand Services and Mashups
01 Jun 2009
Both allow for greater use of voice on mobile devices
Avoid the "Old-Folks' Home" with a Speech-Enabled House
02 Apr 2009
Technology exists to help the elderly live on their own.
Tomorrow's Technologies, Today's Applications
01 Nov 2008
We need to look beyond basic processing to fuller understanding.
Who Will Win the GUI-VUI Race?
22 Aug 2008
Multimodal applications present a new type of user interface.
The Evolution of IVR Systems
01 Jun 2008
The next phases of IVR development centers on multimodality and faster transactions.
The Expanding Speech Tech Universe
01 Apr 2008
New stars present opportunities for using speech technologies.
Escaping from Directed Dialogues
25 Jan 2008
Creating and implementing automatic classifiers is not as easy as it sounds.
Extending VoiceXML's Impact to New Markets
01 Oct 2007
Technology is available to handle many of the more mundane translation tasks
SISR: The Standard Semantic Interpretation Language
09 Jul 2007
Speech vendors should support SISR for easier porting of grammars and applications between platforms
Multimodal Mobile Apps Will Thrive
01 May 2007
Electronic companions are the wave of the future in consumer electronics
Policies and Technologies for Improving the Customer Experience
01 Mar 2007
The customer experience isn't about completion rates and ROI; it's about achieving an intended task easily, efficiently, and even enjoyably
Toward Natural Language Processing
09 Nov 2006
When many people hear the words, "natural language," they immediately think of Star Trek's android, Data, who speaks and understands everyday English. Some software vendors claim anything beyond discrete speech recognition (in which users must pause between speaking each word) as "natural."
Speaking and Listening to the World Wide Web
12 Sep 2006
Developing and sharing content is a growing activity on the Internet. In addition to passively observing Internet content, users are actively adding to it by uploading their pictures to flickr.com, and sharing their thoughts in blogs and wikis. Readers rate books on amazon.com, and teens post real and fantasy personas on the extremely popular myspace.com, hoping to attract the attention of other teens.
Multimodal Applications' Architectures
03 Jul 2006
Rolling Out High-Value Applications Services in Record Time
13 Jun 2006
Case study by PIKA Technologies>
NuVoxx focuses on developing and marketing advanced IVR (Interactive Voice Response) services, which it provides on a hosted model on a pay-per-use basis. The company also builds productivity solutions for call centers, and recently developed and deployed an advanced call recording and monitoring solution for NuComm International, its sister company and the largest privately-held Canadian provider of customer relationship and contact center services.>
Mom and Pop Shops Gain a Voice
08 May 2006
Three trends that enable IVR systems for mom and pop shops without costing an arm and a leg include prepackaged applications, free starter VoiceXML platforms, and reusable dialog components.
Improve the User Experience
01 Mar 2006
Graphical user interfaces have been the standard user interface for computer users for over 20 years. It's time to up-level the user's computing experience by voice-enabling applications.
Metalanguages and AJAX
01 Jan 2006
Because many telephones do not have hardware that supports speech processing, a voice server is placed in the network to act as a client on behalf of telephones.
VoiceXML on Steroids
07 Nov 2005
Researchers and practitioners are extending VoiceXML using various techniques to provide new functionality. These include the RDC library tags, xHMI meta language, and a prototype implementation of VoiceXML which supports dictation speech recognition. RDC Tag Library Developers frequently use Struts1 or other application frameworks to generate HTML. The goal of the Reusable Dialog Component (RDC) project is to provide a similar framework for VoiceXML. Like Struts, RDC has a tag library that hides the
Ten Criteria for Measuring Effective Voice User Interfaces
07 Nov 2005
A Toolkit of Metrics for Evaluating VUIsInvestors use standard metrics such as stock price and projected revenue per share to choose investment opportunities. Likewise, consumers use standard metrics such as floor space, number of bedrooms, or number of bathrooms when purchasing houses. This paper presents a toolkit containing some specific metrics for evaluating voice user interfaces (VUIs). The speech industry should use criteria from this toolkit to: Judge the most efficient of several VUIs for
Consistent User Input Options and Instructions Across Multiple User Interfaces
20 Jun 2005
Many Web developers use XML to represent data and a transformation language, such as XSLT, ASP, or ColdFusion, to transform the XML data to an HTML user interface. Developers change the values of the XML data without having to manually recode the HTML user interface.
Regaining Consumer IVR Confidence: Companies Draw on Different Tools to Save IVR/Speech Interaction
01 May 2005
Michael Chavez, vice president of client services at ClickFox, explains that "by leveraging a strategic combination of customer behavior intelligence, customer service interviews and surveys, organizations can reduce customer frustration with IVR systems, which will result in drastic savings, while also improving customer satisfaction."
Synthetic Interviews: Beyond History Calls
26 Apr 2005
Matt Nickerson describes how mobile phones enable callers to speak and listen to virtual agents. Using the same device to speak with family, friends and business associates, callers speak with software agents that enable synthetic interviews with individuals in photographs of historical events in a museum. This represents a new way of interacting with objects that are usually only viewed.
Ten Guidelines for Designing a Successful Voice User Interface
06 Jan 2005
At SpeechTEK 2004, a group of leading VUI designers attended the Voice User Interface (VUI) workshop directed by Dr. James A. Larson. Taking the lead for an article on the best practices in VUI, Dr. Larson collected and coordinated this team of VUI specialists to compile the Ten Guidelines for Designing a Successful Voice User Interface. Speech Technology Magazine would like to thank the authors for their contributions to this article and Dr. Larson for
Balancing Customer Service Support Options
23 Nov 2004
Customers often ask questions about products, services, delivery dates and account information, as well as, offer suggestions and complaints. If customers do not receive satisfactory answers to their questions, they become disillusioned with the company and take their business elsewhere. In short, good customer service support is the key to repeat business.
MRCP Enables New Speech Applications
23 Nov 2004
Have you ever wished you could change your VoiceXML platform to use a speech synthesizer or speech recognizer from a different vendor? Have you ever wanted to move your speech synthesizer or speech recognizer to a different server? The Internet Engineering Task Force is proposing a new standard that will provide this flexibility.
What's New with VoiceXML 2.0?
11 Sep 2004
Beyond XML 2.0
08 Jul 2004
The W3C Voice Browser Working Group reviewed more than 700 requests for change to VoiceXML 1.0. After careful deliberation, many of these were adopted, resulting in VoiceXML 2.0 which became a recommendation in March 2004. The VBWG is now working on two efforts to make VoiceXML even better.
Profiles for Speech Application Users
24 May 2004
A user profile contains information that describes how to personalize a speech user interface to meet the needs for a specific user.
VoiceXML 2.0: A Real Standard for a Real World
08 Mar 2004
New technology will change the way people interact with computers. PCs enabled users to use a keyboard and screen rather than review printed reports. The Xerox Star and Apple Macintosh introduced Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) which made the mouse and other pointing devices popular. Now, we are on the verge of a revolution in technology that makes computing portable. Separating user interface devices from the computing device will dramatically change how people interact with computers.
Help Users Speak
09 Jan 2004
A speech application does not work if users do not speak when prompted with a question.
EMMA: W3Cs Extended Multimodal Annotation Markup Language
25 Nov 2003
Recently, the W3C Multimodal Working Group published a first working draft of EMMA the Extended MultiModal Annotation markup language EMMA (www.w3.org/TR/emma/). EMMAs intended use is to represent the semantics for information entered via various input modalities and the resulting integrated information.
InkML and Speech
25 Aug 2003
Have you ever been in a place where speaking to a VoiceXML application on a cell phone is impractical? As you know, not all locations or situations are suitable for using speech-enabled handheld devices.
Controlled Languages and Speech Prompts
30 Jun 2003
"Welcome to the Ajax speech application. It is possible to perform any of several actions at any time during this application, including the common actions of asking for help, transferring the call to an operator, stopping the application and returning to the main menu." This sample prompt is too long and confusing for most users. However, by using a controlled language, you can improve the prompt for your customers.
State of Speech Standards
30 Jun 2003
Speech standards include terminology, languages and protocols specified by committees of speech experts for widespread use in the speech industry. Speech standards have both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include the following: developers can create applications using the standard languages that are portable across a variety of platforms; products from different vendors are able to interact with each other; and a community of experts evolves around the standard and is available to develop products and services based on the standard.
Speech WarsRound Two
05 May 2003
The Voice Browser Working Group has finished the technical work on the three major languages in the W3C Speech Interface FrameworkVoiceXML 2.0, the Speech Recognition Grammar Specification, and the Speech Synthesis Markup Language. These languages will soon become check-off items in a list of features provided by the leading speech platforms.
The W3C Speech Interface Framework
06 Mar 2003
In the past three years, the World Wide Web Consortium Voice Browser Working Group has produced several reports that define languages in the W3C Speech Interface Framework. Developers use the W3C Speech Interface Framework languages to create speech applications.
Uniform Basic Function Commands
14 Jan 2003
Information processing and the Internet are merging with the telecommunications industry to develop mobile devices using interactive services with global access. Speech recognition offers the most natural way for consumers to use new communication devices and services.
Developing Verbal, Visual, and Multimodel User Interfaces for the Same Application
21 Nov 2002
PC users access the World Wide Web using a graphical user interface (GUI) that is commonly specified with HTML. Telephone and cell phone users access the Web using a verbal user interface (VUI) often specified with VoiceXML.
The What, Why and How of Usability Testing
10 Sep 2002
As the cartoon illustrates, users become frustrated when speech applications dont work. Testing minimizes this frustration by detecting and resolving many speech application problems before they cause user frustration.
Telephony Enable Your Web Site
11 Jul 2002
VoiceXML has revolutionized the development of telephony applications, in that telephone users can call Web sites and converse with VoiceXML applications. The system uses a TTS synthesizer or prerecorded voice and users can respond by speaking answers to the questions. Currently VoiceXML is weak in telephony controls. About all you can do in VoiceXML is and , which are powerful enough for many applications, but not powerful enough for many others, such as event notification and conferencing. However, with the coming of new call control capabilities, many of these restrictions will be overcome.
VoiceXML and SALT
21 May 2002
VoiceXML and SALT are both markup languages that describe a speech interface. However, they work in very different ways, largely due to two reasons: (i) they have different goals, (ii) they have different Web heritages.
Students Develop Innovative Prototype Speech Applications
21 May 2002
Student teams are very creative when asked to design and implement speech applications of their choice. Here are some of the prototype speech applications recently implemented by students at Georgia Institute of Technology, Washington State University, Portland State University and Oregon Health and Sciences University.
Building User Interfaces for Multiple Devices
29 Mar 2002
Users can choose from among several devices to access the World Wide Web. These devices include PCs with a visual Web browser, such as Netscape's Navigator or Microsoft's Internet Explorer, to interpret HTML files downloaded from a Web server and executed on the PC; telephones and cell phones with a verbal browser to interpret VoiceXML files downloaded from a Web server and executed on a voice server; and WAP phones with a visual browser to interpret WML files downloaded from a server and executed on the WAP phone.
IBMs New Toolkit Connects with a Family of Developers
31 Jan 1997
The goal of speaking to your computer, and having it do what you say, has been a goal of IBMs speech recognition research team for over 25 years.