Alliance to speak with one voice

IBM, Intel, e.Digital, Dictaphone, Norcom Electronics, Olympus and Philips have banded together to develop standards for voice technology on mobile devices.

The alliance has been dubbed the Voice Technology Initiative for Mobile Enterprise Solutions, or VoiceTIMES.

“VoiceTIMES is really about trying to define the technical requirements that companies are going to need to integrate voice into mobile devices,” such as cell phones, handheld computers and other devices that have not yet been invented, said Tom Houy, enterprise marketing program manager with IBM Corp. in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Chris Shipley, executive producer of the Demo conferences with IDG Conference Management in San Mateo, Calif., said the forming of VoiceTIMES signals a recognition in the industry that the next push in computer interfaces will be voice.

“Computer processors are going to find their way into lots of things for which the human voice is a much better way to operate that thing than any sort of control panel or keyboard or series of touch-screens. A navigation system in the car, for example, really needs me to be able to say, ‘Can you tell me how to get to the local hospital?’ and not typing in a particular address and hoping that I can drive fast enough and type at the same time,” Shipley said.

William Meisel, president of TMA Associates, a speech industry consulting firm in Tarzana, Calif., said current devices such as 3Com Corp.’s Palm Pilot aren’t good for creating large amounts of text.

He said products such as Newton, Mass.-based Dragon Systems Inc.’s mobile recording devices are good for text creation, but can’t pull up a form or show files to a user like the Palm Pilot can.

“I personally see these two things converging in the long run,” Meisel said. “If you get down to small devices, the voice interface becomes critical and these initiatives (such as VoiceTIMES) really help open up a whole new product category in the consumer market.”

Besides new product creation, IBM’s Houy said VoiceTIMES will be about developing industry-wide standards.

Houy said VoiceTIMES will continue to expand its membership since the response to the initiative has been entirely positive, but said other companies can still benefit without having to join.

“We’re looking to be able to release the standard out to the general public once it’s in place…I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem for people to take what we produce out of the VoiceTIMES structure and integrate it into their voice recognition engines,” Houy said.