MessageBay Lends Voice to E-greetings

Happy birthday. Wish you were here. Congratulations. Love you. Even: Get lost. You spend so much time communicating with e-mail, you probably end up sending even important messages like these electronically.

When e-mail just isn't enough, you can usually find an electronic greeting card to send. But do you ever think that these cards aren't personal enough? Sure, you can type in your own message, but wouldn't it be better if you could say the words?

Now you don't need the telephone for people to hear what you have to say. You can express your sentiments on the Web in your own speaking voice.

A new technology announced this week from MessageBay lets Web developers with online communities, online greeting cards, and other services deliver simple voice messaging capabilities to their users.

Among the first to adopt MessageBay's technology is Cyber Greetings, an online greeting card site.

At the Cyber Greetings site, you can choose from ten voice-enabled greetings for various occasions and sentiments. To send a card with a voice message, select the one you want, type your and the recipient's name and e-mail address, type a message, click the Record button, and speak into your PC-attached microphone.

Recipients get an e-mail message that contains a link to the Cyber Greetings site, where they download the card and play the message.

MessageBay's technology uses the TrueSpeech 8.5 algorithm from DSP Group to compress speech 15:1 for speedy playback on the Internet.

To record or play a MessageBay audio message, you must download and install the MessageBay browser plug-in. The plug-in is supported by any Windows 95/98 or Windows NT system with version 4.0 or higher of Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator. A Macintosh plug-in is expected in early September.

In an informal test of the technology at the Cyber Greetings site, the MessageBay plug-in downloaded quickly but continually crashed Netscape Communicator 4.5. Using IE 5.0 worked much better. We added a brief message to a greeting card and addressed the e-mail notification to ourselves.

The e-mail message arrived a few minutes later. But when we went to the Cyber Greetings site to receive the card, only the beginning of the brief message played; the rest was apparently dropped.

Additional Web sites will be adding MessageBay's voice-over-IP service within the next two months, a MessageBay representative says.

A future version of the technology will enable recipients of voice-enabled messages to play a recording in their browser instantly using a Java-based player, instead of having to download and install the browser plug-in.

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