VoiceXML Planet Conference & Expo: Sneak Preview, Part 2

Saturday Sep 21st 2002 by Hitesh Seth
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In last week's article we took a look at the upcoming VoiceXML Planet Conference & Expo. In this part of our sneak preview we continue our exploration of the various sessions scheduled for the second day of the conference.

In last week's article we took a look at the upcoming VoiceXMLPlanet Conference & Expo. In this part of our sneak preview we continue our exploration of the various sessions scheduled for the second day of the conference.

Day 2 (September 27)

As a technology standard, VoiceXML has done an excellent job of bringing thecomplex technologies around speech recognition, text-to-speech, telephony, callcontrol, etc. together and created new avenues for the development of interactivespeech applications. It doesn't stop there, however, as it's really the beginning of the ecosystem of applications, tools and services that can be created using voice.

As the founders and drivers of a company'svoice strategy, it is important to take a holistic view of what voice can dofor your business, the kind of products and services that you can provide to yourcustomers. In the keynote of Day 2, "Ozzie" Osborne will present the "BigPicture" and future of voice in the world of pervasive computing.

Whereas the first day is focused on technologies and fundamentals, day 2 isfocused around applications. Similar to the first day, the rest of the sessions of thesecond day are divided into two tracks - VUI/Best Practices track and the Real World VoiceXML Track.

VUI & Best Practices Track

It is typically said that eyeballs are important when you are developinginteractive e-business/web applications. Similarly, your ears are very importantwhen you are building interactive voice recognition applications. Yourapplication may be able to provide the most updated, real-time data from your backendlegacy systems using the flexibility offered by VoiceXML. However, if it doesn'tsound friendly and pleasant, you will probably not have a large number ofsatisfied users.& The "Writing for the Ear" session is tuned togive you tips and tricks about making speech applications fun and useful. 

Typically as speech application developers we are presented with the challengeof taking the existing functionality which exists in today's web or non-webapplications, combining it with information about the user and converting into a usefulIVR system. As developers we are faced with critical questions such as "whatshould be speech enabled" and "what should be left?" "What conversational formshould be used - directed dialogs/mixed dialogs or natural language like?" "Whento use TTS?" The VUI Design Best Practices session will present the rules ofthumb in designing speech applications. 

It is typically said that a speech application is only as good as the grammarit supports. However, developing efficient grammars can be a challenging task. Ontop of that, as developers we also need to make grammars modular in nature sothat they can be reused in different application scenarios. In the"Developing Better Grammars" session you can drill into some of the grammardevelopment standards, tools for grammar development and techniques foreffective grammar design.

When it comes to developing web applications, the layout, pictures and overall look and feel of the application is very critical in delivering a successfulweb-based application. In the world of Voice Applications, an easy flowingdialog interaction with the user is very critical. It is typically assumed thatwe need to build dialogs along the lines of Natural language like interaction e.g. "What can I do for you?" It has been illustrated that when it comes to dialog design, you don't always need to have a genie. It is quite possible to develop usable and easy to use interactions by carefully using directed dialogs. The dialog design evaluates the various approaches that a speech user interface design architect has and presents some useful guidelines.

Last (but definitely not the least) session of the day in the Best Practicestrack is about integrating VoiceXML and Voice over IP Networks. A combinationof VoIP and VoiceXML could bring the best of both worlds, the security and easeof setting up IP-based networks with the ease of use of speech-based interactions.

Real World VoiceXML Track

One of the things that we learned from our first conference (in March of 2002) is that a lot of attendees wanted to discuss and see case studies in which real world companies have utilized VoiceXML and developed interesting applications using the technology. In the Real World VoiceXML Track, our objective is exactly that. We start with adiscussion on how SIs and Services Providers can collaborate and providespecialized services and new business models using the flexibility provided byan open standard--VoiceXML.

We continue with case studies about the usage of VoiceXML in the transportationindustry where the technology provided unique benefits to its developers andusers. After lunch, the conference presents a rapid fire "VoiceXML Live!Demo hour" session, an opportunity to allow different presenters to showoff their VoiceXML-based applications. The theme that revolves around the innovative use of VoiceXML continues during the day with a discussion on how VoiceXML was utilizedby radio stations in answering their calls. 

Finally, if you are sitting on an idea for a great application where speechcan be utilized in your organization, but need a push to start that firstproject, the "Lessons  Learned from Your First VoiceXML Project"session is well suited for you to give that push. Discuss and take back first handtips from someone who already took that leap and is ready to discuss the experience withyou.

Day-2 at a glance

Please refer to the conferencewebsite for any additional information regarding the varioussessions/speakers. The table below provides a synopsis for the second day.

Keynote: W.S. "Ozzie" Osborne

Writing for the Ear Service Providers & VoiceXML 
VUI Design Best Practices Case Study: Enabling Speech for Transportation
Developing Better Grammars VoiceXML Live Demo Hour
Effective Dialog Design Case Study: Answering the Call for Radio Stations
Integrating VoiceXML & Voice over IP Networks Lessons Learnt from your first VoiceXML Project

See you there!

It is very encouraging to see the kind of ecosystem a standard such asVoiceXML can bring together. That finishes the conference preview folks. Anymore and I would probably be spilling the beans. For those of you who aregoing to be at the show, I look forward to seeing you there. Happy VoiceXML coding!

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About Hitesh Seth

A freelance author and known speaker, Hitesh is a columnist on VoiceXML technology in XML Journal and regularly writes for other technology publications including Java Developers Journal, Web Services Journal and The Computer Bulletin on emerging technology topics such as J2EE, Microsoft .NET, XML, Wireless Computing, Speech Applications, Web Services & Enterprise/B2B Integration. He is theconference chair for VoiceXMLPlanet Conference & Expo. Hitesh received his Bachelors Degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), India. Feel free to email any comments or suggestions about the articles featured in this column at hks@hiteshseth.com.

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