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Abbott K.R. Voice Enabling Web Applications. VoiceXML and Beyond

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Abbott K.R. Voice Enabling Web Applications. VoiceXML and Beyond
APress, 2002. — 252 p.
This book is about two topics that I've pretty well mixed together: using voice to access the Web and the VoiceXML language. Of the two, the former topic is the bigger, more conceptual one, and it is the one that will wear the best over time. I believe that VoiceXML will enable the use of voice to access the Web in a big way. VoiceXML is a hot new enabling technology destined to live its meteoric life in Web time: new and brilliant today but commonplace tomorrow. However, in the grand tradition of computer technology, details get the attention and the major trends take care of themselves.
I am a "big picture" person, and for me, the key to mastering the everchanging details of technology is to keep the details in context. My years in the computer software industry have taught me that not everyone thinks the way I do, and for many technically oriented people, "God is in the details." In this book I have attempted to strike a balance between providing context and explaining the current technical details.
In the admixture of voice, computers, and the Web, I've observed the following overlapping constituencies with strong interest in seeing VoiceXML succeed.
- One constituency is people with backgrounds in telephony and highly customized voice applications. They've been making telephones and automated voice systems work together for years using expensive, special purpose gateways and expensive, proprietary software.
- Another group is voice technologists, who are grounded in the deep complexities of voice recognition, voice synthesis, and natural language processing. They have been working for decades on a complex and frustrating technology, and they feel it is now getting close to the point where the masses can use it.
- Web enthusiasts are technically oriented people who are deeply involved with the development, care, and feeding of Web applications and the Web itself. To them, voice is a new technology to be quickly mastered and assimilated.
- Finally, there are technology integrators, who occupy the shadowy realm between business and technology. They are interested in finding better ways to do business using technology. Technology integrators tend to be interested in markets, products, architectures, and standards-they are the architects and general contractors of the computer-system building industry.
In terms of my personal background, I am part Web enthusiast and part technology integrator. My background is in computer software, primarily large-scale applications, and my current specialty is helping clients develop and deploy large-scale business applications on the Web. Proving the technical feasibility of an architecture or design is a vital part of what I do, so also I dive in and develop prototypes and pilots.
In this book, I have tried to speak to all constituencies. I introduce and review, but do not labor over, material that may be familiar to some and not to others. I've tried to give you the same mixture of abstract and concrete advice I give my clients. In this book, I have established a context for voice technology in general and VoiceXML in particular; I have architecturally "sited" voice and VoiceXML relative to other major technology landmarks such as XML and application servers; and I have provided a step-by-step tutorial for hands-on beginners and a working prototype for advanced users.
What does this book give you that others don't? Most books you see on the shelf with VoiceXML in the title will have some sort of tutorial, walk-through, or annotated examples of VoiceXML programs-most will have extensive reference material covering all details of the VoiceXML language. This book has those things. However, this book also provides a thorough grounding in what it takes to actually use VoiceXML effectively in the complex, polyglot world of modern Web applications. In terms of enabling voice access to a Web site, VoiceXML is but one specialist niche in a much broader landscape that includes stylesheets, servlets, databases, and so on. In this book, these related technologies are approached as a professional systems designer or architect would approach them: with basic knowledge of the technology, with respect for unseen details, and with a desire to put the technology to work as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Part One Retrospective on Voice and the Web
The Role of Voice on the Web
The Convergence of Speech and the Web
The Evolution of Web Application Architectures
Part Two The VoiceXML Language
Simplified Personal Information Manager Example
VoiceXML Concepts
VoiceXML Language Tutorial
VUI Design Principles and Techniques
VoiceXML Programming Guide
Advanced VoiceXML Topics
Part Three Incorporating Voice into the Web
Overview of Related Web Technologies
The Web Application Prototype
What's Next
A: Quick Reference to VoiceXML 1.0 Syntax
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