Speech technology will take a page from Web authoring programs next week when SpeechWorks International introduces SpeechSite, an application for voice-activated, telephony-based customer service and autoattendant functions that allow users to navigate a speech site in the same way they would a Web site.
Customers will be able to say, "Connect me to the widget department," or, "Tell me the status of my order," using speech to request information, the equivalent of clicking on a radio button on a Web site.
SpeechSite will incorporate text-to-speech and speech technology from the company's SpeechWorks 5.0 product and integrate autoattendant functions and generic customer-service applications into one program.
Corporate developers will be able to create applications by pulling in components such as a company phone directory or product descriptions using a point-and-click interface, according to Stuart Patterson, CEO at SpeechWorks.
Patterson compared SpeechSite to such Web authoring packages as Microsoft's FrontPage.
"A nonspeech technologist could create this kind of site," Patterson said.
The business benefits of speech technology are obvious to a company such as United Airlines, which is spending on the order of $10 million on speech systems, said Ananda Rakhit, director of architecture and technology at United Airlines, in Elk Grove Township, Ill.
"It is a great competitive advantage to offer our customers, and from the employee standpoint as well," Rakhit said. "By letting our 100,000 employees who call our reservation centers make a reservation with our speech application, it is not distracting employees from selling to our customers." He added that SpeechSite is taking the right approach to speech technology.
"You still have to customize some things, but to the extent that you have things prepackaged it becomes easier to build a new speech application," Rakhit said.
SpeechSite also can be used as a voice-activated Internet-commerce site, Patterson said.
Extensible Markup Language, although not quite the ubiquitous technology some believe it will become, will be incorporated into SpeechSite to support data exchange from a Web site to a speech site, according to Patterson.
SpeechSite will ship in the fourth quarter and will cost between $50,000 and $150,000, depending on the configuration.