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Microsoft .NET Speech SDK Beta Is Now Available

by John Peterson

Introduction

If you've ever tried to develop an application that did anything with voice recognition or any sort of speech-related technology, you know that it's not easy. Well at least it never used to be...

I actually caught this just in time to squeeze it into last week's NewsFlash, but I didn't get a chance to give you anything but the basic link. Well then when one of my contacts at Microsoft checked to see if I had seen it, it started to dawn on my how big this is going to be. Talking to your web server via cell phone and having it understand and answer you... this I can't wait for. Don't get me wrong, it'll still be some work, but we're getting to the point where it'll be feasible for everyone and not just big business.

Here's The Message From Microsoft

It's nothing extrodinary, but here's the letter I got from my contact at Microsoft making sure I had seen the news.

Hi John,

Not sure if you saw last week's news, but Microsoft announced the availability of .NET Speech SDK beta. This toolkit is a set of SALT-based speech application development tools and speech controls integrated with VS.NET and ASP.NET. Overall, Microsoft recognizes the challenges in the industry with regards to speech recognition, and is very committed to bring speech into the mainstream.

The .NET Speech SDK is the first tool that will enable Web developers to ad speech functionality to both new and existing Web applications for multimodal and voice-only access. In addition, with it's VS IDE integration it enables millions of VS developers to quickly and easily configure their Web applications for speech.

Here is a link to the press release: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2002/may02/05-07SDKSpeechPR.asp and here is a great site for information on .NET Speech: http://www.microsoft.com/speech

That's It

That's basically the news so I won't waste any more of your time... here are those links again... go check it out and start getting ready for a whole new level of internet usability:

It's a little hard to find so here's the page where you can order the actual SDK. If that doesn't work try going from this page. I'm sure they'll have a download page at somepoint, but as of today I don't think there's a place to download the SDK. If there is, I couldn't find it.

I Got My CDs

I got the Beta SDK CDs in the mail the other day and I've gotta say I'm impressed. I was just playing with their demo/walkthrough application, but in a matter of a few minutes I was able to add both speech recognition and voice prompts to a web page. If you've got any interest in speech technologies, I'd give this a look.

.NET Speech SDK Cover

The main downfall at the moment is that in order to use it for most web stuff it looks like you need to install what Microsoft is calling Microsoft Internet Explorer extensions for interpretting SALT markup. Without it IE doesn't have a clue what you're trying to do. Even so... speech this easy is scary.

.NET Speech SDK Cover

I guess I'm still thinking back to the days when I was trying to run voice recognition software on my 486 and you had to spend 30-45 minutes training the voice recognition dictionary and even then you ended up with a bunch of nonsense. While testing this I was intentionally mumbling (even more then usual) and it was getting things right more often then not! Granted you need to spend some time setting up the grammar file (so it does has a limited number of options to choose from), but even so it's impressive that I didn't have to tell it what a newly added option sounds like.

.NET Speech SDK Grammar Editor Screen Cap - Click for Full Size

The demo even includes an all voice interface version... now if only I knew my web server's phone number?

.NET Speech SDK Paper - Page 1 .NET Speech SDK Paper - Page 2

If I can get all the client side requirements straightened out, maybe I'll put up a demo... which brings up the interesting question: "What type of server load will this type of app cause?" Guess we'll wait and see.


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