New specs released for wireless speech, text delivery

The continuing development of text-to-speech capabilities for wireless devices received a promising boost Monday with the release of the first specifications by the industry-led SALT Forum.

In an announcement, the SALT Forum, the group of companies that's been working since last year to establish Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) to accelerate text-to-speech capabilities in wireless devices, said its first specifications have been assembled and submitted to an unnamed standards group for consideration.

Once the first specifications receive the nod from the standards group, the SALT Forum members hope that developers begin using them to create new applications and hardware with new speech capabilities.

Rob Kassel, product manager for emerging technologies at SpeechWorks International Inc. in Boston, one of the SALT Forum companies, said that by having clear specifications and support from a standards group, SALT hopes to encourage the next round of innovation in speech and text features in wireless devices.

Already there are voice XML standards for voice capabilities on desktop computers. But the SALT specifications seek to add advanced capabilities for smaller, portable wireless devices such as personal digital assistants, laptop computers and the latest wireless phones, Kassel said.

The first Version 1.0 specs are available at the SALT Forum Web site.

"The SALT 1.0 specification provides application developers with a documented way to leverage existing Web markup languages," said Daniel Miller, senior vice president of Voice & Wireless Commerce at The Kelsey Group, in a statement. "Its release by the SALT Forum marks a major milestone that should accelerate integration of automated speech, multimodal and telephony applications."

The SALT Forum, created in 2001, has developed specifications that define a set of lightweight tags as extensions to commonly used Web-based programming languages such as HTML, XHTML and XML, while incorporating existing standards from the World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Engineering Task Force. This allows developers to add speech interfaces to Web content and applications using familiar tools and techniques.

Philip Marshall, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said the SALT specifications will eventually bring more developers and companies into the emerging market segment as users seek new capabilities for their wireless devices.

The SALT Forum, based in Boston, includes Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Aliant Telecom, Cambridge VoiceTech, Carnegie Mellon University, Fonix Corp., InfoTalk Corp., Multi-Modal Technologies, SnowShore Networks and Verizon Wireless.

The group is working to develop a royalty-free standard that works with existing Web markup languages to provide spoken access to many forms of content through a wide variety of devices.

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