Though the Web has evolved to provide audio, pictures and video, for most of us our primary interaction with the online world is via the written word, typed text in particular. This is a barrier for many, especially in developing countries. Imagine, for example, how an illiterate person could use it, or somebody with no access to a computer or any understanding of one.
A new project from IBM India Research Laboratory called the Spoken Web is trying to resolve this problem. In essence, it creates Web sites based on the spoken word, VoiceSites, accessed by the spoken word using mobile phones. Computers are not widely available in India, but more than 200 million have mobile phones, albeit low-end ones without the browsing or data-transfer facilities that are now common in developed countries. The key to adoption of the new system is the ease of creating the VoiceSites, which are then given telephone numbers equivalent to the URLs of Web sites. Callers navigate through the Spoken Web by voice responses using a simple audio browser.
IBM’s plans extend to other countries as well as India. It also proposes to introduce facilities such as an instant translation service, social networking and emergency mobile health care.
The “Spoken Web” project aims to transform how people create, build and interact with e-commerce sites on the world wide web using the spoken word instead of the written word... Farmers need to look up commodity prices; Fishermen need weather info before heading out to sea; Plumbers can schedule appointments; and Grocery shops can display catalogues, offer order placement, display personalized targeted advertisements or reminders.
Business Standard, India, 13 Nov. 2008
A caller’s experience of an individual VoiceSite is similar to the interactive voice response (IVR) systems that customers encounter when calling, say, an airline or their bank. However, where the spoken web differs from these systems is that different VoiceSites can be linked, just like in the internet.
New Scientist, 24 Oct. 2008