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Exciting News From Intervoice

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March 29, 2007

Exciting News From Intervoice

By Art Rosenberg

Conversation is an application, but speech is just an interface for next-generation multimodal, mobile self-services.
I recently received the big announcement from Intervoice (News - Alert) launching the first commercially available product for developing self-serviceunified communications (UC) applications, based on the new W3C language standard, State Chart XML (SCXML), destined to replace CCXML as a call control language for VoiceXML (News - Alert). The announcement of Intervoice’s “Media Exchange” is the opening industry volley in transitioning telephone self-services to the UC world of more personalized and dynamic multimodal business applications and “click-to-contact live assistance.”

Automated voice-based self-service applications have traditionally been focused on wired desktop phones and their mobile counterpart, the cell phone. The user interface has been strictly voice-oriented, using the traditional touchtone keypad for input and voice output. This limited the applications to very short and simple ones to avoid time-consuming and error-prone sessions that callers absolutely hate. With the more recent availability of speech recognition, speech input simplified the input considerably, but didn’t do much for long prompts, error responses, and other forms of outputs. Clearly, voice is NOT ideal for self-service applications when compared with the visual GUIs that we are all taking for granted on the Web.
I have long been waiting for news from the technology developers to start treating the phone as a multimodal device, especially for mobile users as discussed above, and was pleasantly surprise by the Intervoice announcement. What is most important here is that this is not a traditional proprietary telephony technology that depends on locking up users to specific hardware devices, but is a standard that will be usable with all flavors of evolving ‘smart phones.” Telephony is indeed becoming emancipated from the TDM hardware world of the past!
In listening to the demo of Intervoice’s product announcement for Media Exchange, you can still see the rough edges in transitioning between visual and speech interfaces, or what I have called “transmodal communications.” As described earlier, the shift between interfaces will be based not just on “preferences,” but also on dynamic circumstances such as driving a car, walking in a noisy public space, etc. The demo’s chatty conversational voice prompts obviously can be replicated with visual prompts in order to speed up the interaction, even though inputs can still be either manual or spoken. There will be a prize for the best multimodal input/output flexibility that makes users happy with whatever mobile handheld devices they have, for any mobilized application, in any environment.
In any event, the news from Intervoice is most promising for the coming world of consumer mobile communications.
Ed. note: For more insights on how and why mobility will change telephony, check out this recent article from Art Rosenberg.
News From UC Strategies
To get an idea of the different perspectives and issues involved with UC technologies, go to the UC Strategies Web site for better insights of what UC is really all about for the enterprise. 
UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring
For more insight on migrating to UC in the enterprise, you can review the presentations given by the UC Strategies experts at TMC’s (News - Alert) ITEXPO last month.
What Do You Think?
Will users continue to initiate telephone contacts using new “click-to-dial“ interfaces or will “click-to-contact,” exploiting SIP-based presence and multi-modal devices provide the more flexible approach from the outset? Which will be better for presence-based, multi-modal communications of the future? How will legitimate contacts from “non-buddies” reach users in this kind of environment?
Let us know your opinions by sending them to [email protected]

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