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Voice ActivatedSomeone recently said that using Google has added 20 points to our IQ. Other than using Google, however, most of us use a browser the same way we used it ten years ago. We type a url and wait for the web server to return the requested page to us. Opera Software ASA is changing the model. In partnership with IBM Corporation, Opera has developed a new browser that will allow you to use your voice to request web pages — and the browser will talk back to you.

"Good morning, John. Where would you like to go".
"Weather Underground", I might say.
"What city?", the browser replies.
"Phoenix, Arizona", I say.
"Sunny and 92 degrees today. Tomorrow will be partly cloudy and 88. The next day will be sunny and 85". "Anything else?", the Opera browser says.
"Technology News", I say.
"Headlines", the browser responds. After reading the top ten stories, the browser says, "More headlines?".
"Full story", I say.
"Which story?" the browser responds.
"Opera", I respond.

The browser says…
"Opera Sings with IBM’s Speech Technology: New version of Opera Embeds ViaVoice from IBM"

"Oslo, Norway and San Francisco, CA – Mar. 23, 2004" "Today at AVIOS, SpeechTEK 2004, Opera Software announced the upcoming release of a multimodal desktop browser that incorporates IBM’s Embedded ViaVoice speech technology. By leveraging IBM’s voice libraries in this version of Opera, users can navigate, request information and even fill in Web forms using speech and other forms of input in the same interaction".
As Christen Krogh, VP – Engineering, Opera Software, says, voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate. There are some very big changes ahead and the new Opera browser is the tip of the iceberg. Imagine having a voice-enabled Opera browser in your WiFi-enabled handheld device. You will be able to do your shopping, make airline reservations, check your bank balance, and send email — all using your voice. This is not the mindless call centers of today with their droning on about “Please pay attention because our menus have changed”. Using IBM’s ViaVoice and XHTML + Voice (X+V), developers will be able to add voice input and output to traditional Web pages in a very natural way that gives the user a feeling of control. It will take some time for this to happen but the handwriting is one the wall — the new Opera and IBM capabilities are going to have a huge impact on how we use the Web.
XHTML is a reformulation of HTML using XML. The idea behind XHTML+Voice (X+V) is to create Web applications that are device independent and also “multimodal”. Multimodal, as it’s name implies, is a characteristic of applications that can use a combination of voice, text, text-to-speech, etc. depending on the situation. Voice will bring many millions (maybe billions) of new users to the Web, but voice is not the best answer across the board. For example, you might visit an airline Web site and use your voice to interact with the Web server to specify the destination, time of day, fares, etc. that you are seeking. The server could respond with a set of choices, but will you be able to remember them? Probably not. This is where it would be nice to “see” the choices on your PC or PDA or perhaps receive the information via email or SMS. One size does not fit all, but the addition of voice to the Opera browser is a big step toward supercharging the Web.
Opera will make the voice browser available in English for Windows initially. The target users will be enterprise customers and developers. For more information on multimodal architecture and interfaces, go here.
In the meantime, there are many other reasons to use the Opera browser. It can dramatically increase your productivity while surfing. See my prior story about Opera for more information.

  • The full press release