IBM to Contribute Speech Software to Apache Software and Eclipse Foundations

September 14, 2004

Open Source Initiative Aimed at Driving Interoperability Between Vendors, Broadening Resources Available to Speech Community
IBM today announced it is contributing software to the open source community in a move to spur the availability of speech-enabled applications by making it easier and more attractive for developers to build and add speech recognition capability in a standardized way.

The initiative, supported by more than 20 key industry players from speech vendors to platform providers, is aimed at ending the battles over competing, proprietary specifications.

IBM is contributing Reusable Dialog Components (RDCs) to Apache Software Foundation and proposing a project at the Eclipse Foundation to donate markup editors for speech standards established by the W3C.

Pre-built speech software components, or "building blocks" that handle basic functions such as date, time, currency, locations (major cities, states, zip codes), RDCs are often-used functions in speech-enabled infrastructure applications. These allow a caller to, for example, book a flight using an auto-agent over the phone. Multiple reusable dialog components can be aggregated to provide higher levels of user functionality.

Developed by IBM Research, RDCs are Java Server Page (JSP) tags that enable dynamic development of voice applications and multimodal user interfaces. JSPs that incorporate RDC tags automatically generate W3C VoiceXML 2.0 at runtime -- providing a standard basis for speech applications. By providing familiar and standards-based programming models, J2EE developers can add voice interaction to Web applications. And by making the RDC framework available to the community, speech components built using it will work together, regardless of the vendor that created them. Both the framework and a set of example tags are to be contributed to the Apache Software Foundation.

Separately, IBM's contribution of speech markup editors to Eclipse is aimed at making it easier for developers to write standards-based speech applications as well as create and utilize RDCs within those applications. In proposal stage, this contribution not only gives speech developers a standard way of writing VoiceXML applications, it can also give web developers tools to more easily add speech access to their web applications. This comprises the initial formation of a project at Eclipse for open source tools for voice application development, which will be further evolved by several companies in the VoiceXML community.

Supporters of this initiative include: Apptera, AT&T, Audium, Avaya, Cisco, Fluency, Genesys, Kirusa, Loquendo, Motorola, Nortel, Nuance, Openstream, ScanSoft, Siebel, Syntellect, Telisma, TuVox, V-Enable, Viecore, Vocomo, VoiceGenie, Voice Partners, and VoxGeneration.

Currently, much of the code in the speech ecosystem is proprietary and specific to each vendor. This initiative is aimed at giving speech developers the benefits of open, standards-based programming models and tools that mainstream developers have had. This can also allow companies to speech-enable their existing applications more quickly and efficiently since developers will be able to build speech applications from standards-based components from various speech providers in the same application.

"Since its initial $40 million contribution to launch Eclipse in November of 2001, IBM has continued to contribute to making Eclipse an open platform for application development and integration," said Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation. "With this project proposal, IBM is taking another step toward propelling innovation and giving Java developers the tools to work speech technology into their applications."

The initiative follows closely on the heels of IBM's contribution of its Cloudscape database to the Apache open source community as well as additional developer resources for the community to build on cloudscape.

"This is the latest step in IBM's contribution to open source and to speech technology," said Gary Cohen, General Manager, IBM Pervasive Computing. "By giving more standards-based speech resources to the development community, IBM hopes to accelerate development and drive innovation in all areas of the speech ecosystem -- from speech vendors, to ISVs, to platform providers."

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