BASKING RIDGE and MURRAY HILL, N.J. and CHICAGO, Mar. 2, 1999 — AT&T, Lucent Technologies, and Motorola announced today the formation of the Voice eXtensible Markup Language Forum (VXML Forum) to make the resources of the World Wide Web accessible by telephone. The Forum aims to drive the market for voice- and phone-enabled Internet access by promoting a standard specification for VXML, a computer language used to create Web content and services that can be accessed by phone.
AT&T, Lucent and Motorola will contribute their markup language technologies to the development of the open VXML specification. Seventeen other leading companies from the speech, Internet and communications markets have agreed to support the VXML Forum and play an active role in reviewing or contributing to the VXML specification. Industry supporters include 3Com Corporation, Blue Diamond, British Telecommunications plc, Dragon Systems, General Magic, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lernout & Hauspie, Nortel Networks, Nuance Communications, Online Anywhere, Philips, Registry Magic, SpeechWorks, Unisys, Vocalis and Vogo. The initial specification will be available for public comment and contribution next month, with the goal of submitting a final proposed specification for standardization to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) later this year.
The VXML Forum seeks to promote a broadly supported standard that creates an open, platform-independent environment and enables equipment and infrastructure providers, speech technology providers, speech application developers and content providers, and communications service providers to participate in the growth of this market. In addition to giving users the option of voice-enabled Internet and intranet access, expected benefits include new business opportunities for content developers, greater ease of application development – and thus an expanded developer base – for the speech community, and more rapid creation of differentiated services for carriers.
"Just as standardization of HTML [Hypertext Markup Language] drove the adoption of traditional Web applications, standardization of VXML will drive the adoption of voice- enabled applications," said Maria Martinez, vice president and general manager, Internet and Connectivity Solutions Division (ICSD), Motorola, Inc. "The VXML Forum’s efforts will not only help to provide a crucial mobile component to Internet access, but will also offer Internet access to the 58 percent of people who own a telephone but don’t own or have access to a computer."
One example of a voice-enabled application is a salesperson dialing into a corporate intranet from any phone and using conversational interaction to receive real-time order status information. Similarly, users could access Web-based weather or traffic information, banking transaction services, and other electronic commerce applications without touching a computer keyboard.
"When people can interact with a Web application or an IP [Internet Protocol]-based service this way, the ordinary touch-tone phone literally becomes the ubiquitous Internet access device," said Larry Rabiner, vice president of Research for AT&T Labs. "This technology makes it possible to launch a variety of Internet information and communications applications from anywhere – you only need access to a telephone."
A markup language is a high-level programming language that simplifies content development. To place an image on a Web page, for example, a programmer writes a simple instruction in HTML calling for retrieval of a particular image file. Similarly, a content developer could use VXML to program a particular audio prompt to play over the telephone.
"VXML will have profound impacts," said Lucent Speech Solutions President Dan Furman, "changing the way we use the phone – and perhaps the design of phones themselves – as well as changing the nature and evolution of the Web."