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W3C Standard for Accessible Speech Enabled Web Applications

  • Published: 2008-10-14 (Revised/Updated 2010-02-01) : W3C.
  • Synopsis: Pronunciation Lexicon Specification (PLS) 1.0 W3C Speech Interface Framework for creating Web applications driven by voice and speech.

Main Document

W3C has published a standard that will simplify the development of Web applications that speak and listen to users.

The Pronunciation Lexicon Specification (PLS) 1.0 is the newest piece of W3C's Speech Interface Framework for creating Web applications driven by voice and speech.

PLS can reduce the cost of developing these applications by allowing people to share and reuse pronunciation dictionaries. In addition, PLS can make it easier to localize applications by separating pronunciation concerns from other parts of the application.

"Standard pronunciation lexicons were a missing piece in the W3C Speech Framework," said Paolo Baggia, Director of International Standards at Loquendo and editor of the PLS 1.0 specification. "I'm very happy to have actively contributed to filling this gap. As a result, starting today people can create '100% standard' voice applications."

Voice Interaction Part of W3C's One Web Vision

Real-world voice-driven Web applications abound, though people may not always realize they are interacting with a Web service; examples include airline departure and arrival information, banking transactions, automated phone appointment reminders, and automated telephone receptionists. By one estimate, over 85% of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) applications for telephones (including mobile) use W3C's VoiceXML 2.0 standard.

"There are 10 times as many phones in the world as connected PCs. Phones will become the major portal to the Web," said James A. Larson, co-Chair of the Voice Browser Working Group, which produced the new standard. "Speech recognition is not yet widely associated with the 'visual Web', but this will change as devices continue to shrink and make keyboards impractical, and as cell phones become more prevalent in regions with low literacy rates."

Asking for directions while driving and hearing the response through speech synthesis illustrates how practical "hands-free" applications can be to mobile users. Voice applications also benefit people with some disabilities (such as vision limitations) and people who cannot read.

W3C considers voice access to be one piece of more general "multimodal" access, where users can use combinations of means to interact: voice input, speech feedback, electronic ink, touch input, and physical gestures (such as those used in some video games). The Voice Browser Working Group and the Multimodal Interaction Working Group are coordinating their efforts to make the Web available on more devices and in more situations.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan, and has additional Offices worldwide.

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