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[July 15, 2002]

SALT Forum Publishes Speech Application Language Tags Specification Version 1.0

The SALT Forum, a group of companies with a shared goal of accelerating the use of speech technologies in multimodal and telephony systems, announced the availability of Version 1.0 of the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) specification. This achievement provides the first complete definition of the SALT specification suitable for deployment of multimodal and telephony applications. Version 1.0 is published on the SALT Forum website, www.saltforum.org, marking the conclusion of the SALT specification's first development phase.

"The SALT 1.0 specification provides application developers with a documented way to leverage existing Web markup languages," said Daniel Miller, senior vice president of Voice & Wireless Commerce for The Kelsey Group. "Its release by the SALT Forum marks a major milestone that should accelerate integration of automated speech, multimodal and telephony applications."

Advances in several fundamental technologies are making possible mobile computing platforms of unprecedented power. SALT supplies a critical missing component, facilitating intuitive speech-based interfaces that anyone can master. The result is a wealth of new opportunities to serve millions of consumers with compelling content and applications.

"Verizon Wireless is pleased to join the SALT Forum to make speech applications more accessible to wireless customers," said Jim Straight, Vice President for Wireless Data and Internet Services at Verizon Wireless. "We expect that the SALT 1.0 specification will help to accelerate deployment of multimodal applications and provide a more natural user interface for mobile devices."

The SALT specification defines a set of lightweight tags as extensions to commonly used Web-based programming languages, strengthened by incorporating existing standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This allows developers to add speech interfaces to Web content and applications using familiar tools and techniques. In multimodal applications, the tags can be added to support speech input and output either as standalone events or jointly with other interface options such as speaking while pointing to the screen with a stylus. In telephony applications, the tags provide a programming interface to manage the speech recognition and text-to-speech resources needed to conduct interactive dialogs with the caller through a speech-only interface. The SALT specification is designed to work equally well on traditional computers, handheld devices such as PDAs, home electronics such as video recorders, telematics devices such as in-car navigation systems, and communications devices such as mobile phones.

Version 1.0 of the SALT specification covers three broad areas of capabilities: speech output, speech input and call control. The specification's "prompt" tag allows SALT-based applications to play audio and synthetic speech directly, while "listen" and "bind" tags provide speech recognition capabilities by collecting and processing spoken user input. In addition, the specification's call control object can be used to provide SALT-based applications with the ability to place, answer, transfer and disconnect calls, along with advanced capabilities such as conferencing. The SALT specification draws on emerging W3C standards such as Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS) and semantic interpretation for speech recognition to provide additional application control. Following previously announced plans, the SALT specification is being submitted to an established international standards body to provide the basis of an open, royalty-free standard for speech-enabling multimodal and telephony applications.

Development of the SALT specification proceeded at a rapid pace thanks to the conscientious efforts of more than 50 Forum members, spanning the industry value chain and representing companies of every size from around the world. The Contributors that most recently joined the SALT Forum include Aliant Telecom, Cambridge VoiceTech, Carnegie Mellon University, Fonix Corporation, InfoTalk Corporation, Multi-Modal Technologies, SnowShore Networks and Verizon Wireless.

"The SALT Forum has proven to be uniquely effective in its mission to swiftly address the technical challenges associated with speech-enabling Web content and applications," said SALT Forum representative Rob Kassel. "Now that Version 1.0 of the SALT specification is completed, web developers can begin fulfilling the promise of providing information access through speech anytime, anywhere, in an increasingly mobile world."

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