Nuance Touts Voice as Next Web Interface

Hoping to do for the emerging "voice Web" what browsers did for the Web, Nuance has unveiled a voice browser, dubbed "Voyager," that lets phone users access information and conduct electronic business on voice-enabled Web sites.

The software's voice interface gives users a way to navigate their ways through a voice Web using spoken hyperlinks and common-sense commands.

"The Web didn't explode until it got a common navigational interface," said Ronald Croen, president and CEO of Nuance. "Voyager is in the same position now to do that for voice."

At Internet World last week, Croen said Voyager can supply telecommunications carriers with a platform on which they can build a range of profitable services. By making the product available to their users, they can create "voice-portal" services and electronic-commerce capabilities for consumer markets.

"It fits with British Telecom's vision, and can become the basis for providing information and services through natural-speech technology," said Jeremy Stafford, general manager of voice solutions for British Telecom (BT).

Stafford said that, over the next year, BT intends to work with Nuance to deploy several of Voyager's capabilities in e-commerce applications.

Some analysts believe the new technology makes good use of the Web and telephone and could help speed the growth of e-commerce.

"Voyager looks like it has the potential to radically alter the way carriers do business, but at the same time expand the electronic-commerce market," said Megan Gurley, a telecommunications analyst at the Yankee Group, in Boston.

Users can personalize the product's range of capabilities by streamlining access to their most commonly used numbers and voice sites.

Nuance also unveiled V-Builder, a development tool that allows users to build voice interfaces to Internet sites and speech applications that users can access through Voyager. V-Builder uses a combination of the company's SpeechObjects -- essentially a series of reusable application components, and VoxML programming language. It allows a voice interface to be mapped on a Web page by using SpeechObjects and basic drag-and-drop commands, according to Nuance officials.

Nuance Communications Inc., in Menlo Park, California, is at http://www.nuance.com.

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