Lucent Technologies [NYSE: LU] today introduced
a new way for mobile phone users and on-the-go callers who are without PCs to access information from the Web using spoken commands. Called
PhoneBrowser, the Bell Laboratories technology is being developed as a new business by Lucent's New Ventures Group.
Lucent also announced an initial customer trial for PhoneBrowser with DriveThere.com, a new type of business-to-business and business- to-consumer motor club that provides information and
services for motorists via a Web portal.
PhoneBrowser allows consumers to access the Web with an ordinary telephone, providing input to Web sites via natural language speech commands and receiving content via recorded audio or synthesized text-to-speech. The natural language telephone interface allows users to access the Web anywhere and anytime, when they are commuting, traveling or on the go.
For service providers such as a wireless carrier or a Web portal, PhoneBrowser will build, host and manage Web speech applications,
offering these customers a variety of ways to leverage the new access capability.
According to an International Data Corporation
report, by 2003 more than 40 million people in the U.S. will be wireless Web subscribers. Several wireless carriers are already offering services for connecting to the Internet using microbrowsers and small messaging devices.
"We believe the wireless Web will reach its full
potential only when customers can use the most simple, natural and mobile human interface - speech," said David Stahl, a director in Lucent's New Ventures Group. "This need and the resulting huge market opportunity has led Bell Labs to develop the PhoneBrowser technology."
PhoneBrowser technology will enable wireless
carriers to offer new premium services to subscribers. Recent marketing studies conducted by Lucent indicate that potential users of speech-enabled wireless services will pay a monthly fee for the right packages of services, including e-mail reading, turn-by-turn directions, traffic alerts, weather reports, stock quotes, telephone directories, concierge-like services for
local information and other specialized services.
"PhoneBrowser lets Web users be more productive," said Michael Brown, chief scientist for PhoneBrowser. "People will be able to
access their favorite Web content while they are commuting or traveling, any time they have access to a phone. We expect that content providers,
wireless carriers and Web developers will want to take advantage of this technology."
PhoneBrowser features will make these services more user-friendly. For example, consumers can interrupt spoken content using
Lucent's patented barge-in feature to navigate to other pages or Web sites. The system summarizes pages in a concise manner, signifying fonts
like bold text, for example, with special voices. PhoneBrowser can access current Web sites without the need for them to be reprogrammed in any way.
Based on a broad portfolio of existing and pending
patents, PhoneBrowser is designed to work with any Web site that uses Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). PhoneBrowser is ready today for the
rapid development of new applications. Enterprises, commercial Web sites,
and telecom service providers can extend the reach of existing applications and create a new class of Web applications that employ mobility and lend themselves to a voice interface. Future versions will work with Web sites
using the emerging W3C voice markup language.
DriveThere.com is using the Web to redefine what drivers expect from a motor club. Its goal is to make motoring better for everyone
traveling by highway, whether for business or leisure.
Current DriveThere.com features include what in
effect is an on-line Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to help motorists renew their vehicle registration, order custom plates or pay parking tickets electronically. It also features turn-by-turn driving directions, extensive
maintenance guides and destination guides.
In the coming months, DriveThere.com will add a
number of new applications to its site, including a complete highway information guide that will provide turn-by-turn directions to roadside
services such as hospitals, restaurants and gas stations from any U.S. Interstate or highway; a trip guide that will provide business travelers
with information about business services closest to their destinations; and real-time traffic and alternate routing capabilities. It will also add
e-reminders to help motorists make sure they never miss a critical maintenance service, and emergency roadside assistance that's accessible
from any two-way communication device such as a pager, phone or personal digital assistant (PDA).
"PhoneBrowser is the perfect complement to our
services, because it allows us to deliver services to drivers where they need it most - in the car," said Craig Kaminer, president of DriveThere.com. "We're able to create a motor club that's better than any other, because
we'll be right alongside drivers during their trip, not just before or after. By combining forces with PhoneBrowser, we're creating a system
that's easier to use and more comprehensive than other in-car technologies. The user never has to take her eyes off the road."
The highway information database to be used in the
test was developed by Ultradata Systems (NASDAQ: ULTR), a leading provider
of highway travel information and a one-third owner in DriveThere.com.
Typical PhoneBrowser customers will include wireless carriers, ISPs and Web portals. Wireless carriers can offer their
subscribers simple, largely intuitive, Web access to user-specified Web portals or new, targeted services implemented using standard Web technology. Internet Service Providers or portals now can extend the existing Web
service they provide to include direct access via telephones. Corporate information networks can combine their interactive voice response (IVR)
systems and Web servers into a single Web site system, to serve both voice and Web users.
Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill,
New Jersey, designs, builds and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, data networking systems, business telephone systems and microelectronic components. Bell Labs is the
research and development arm for the company. For more information, visit Lucent's Web site at www.lucent.com and www.bell-labs.com.
DriveThere.com is an on-line motor club, offering
members a vast array of services and information designed to make motoring easier, safer and more enjoyable than ever before. Its intent is to provide for the motorist's every need by combining its extensive Web-based services
with off-line services such as emergency roadside assistance. Based in St. Louis, MO, DriveThere.com is backed by funding from Influence e-Business Incubator. Visit the company at www.DriveThere.com.
Ultradata Systems markets portable travel
information computers used for locating services, destinations and trip planning. These products provide detailed information for highway travel at
affordable prices using a proprietary database. Visit its Web site, www.ultradatasystems.com, to see its products.
Additional Technical Information
Developed by Bell Labs researcher Michael Brown, PhoneBrowser uses a method called HyperVoice with text-to-speech synthesis (TTS) to deliver
spoken Web pages. PhoneBrowser consists of the Web browser engine that retrieves Web pages; the HyperVoice processor that analyzes Web pages and
generates verbal descriptions; the TTS synthesizer; the automatic grammar
generator that produces speech recognition grammars from Web pages; the
speech recognizer, and the spoken command interpreter.
"PhoneBrowser is more than just telephone access to the Web. It delivers an intelligent, high-quality and highly-reliable speech dialogue
with the customer that can be operated independent of voice," said Brown.
"There is a degree of freedom with PhoneBrowser that points to a new generation of Web users. Phone Browser untethers the user from a Web
experience that forces them to interact with a screen. It's all in the voice."
Combining decades of Bell Labs experience in TTS and automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems, PhoneBrowser can be delivered over
platforms such as the Lucent Speech Server.
Lucent Technologies TTS engine supports Italian, Castilian Spanish, French-Canadian, American English, German, French and Latin Spanish.
Lucent's TTS software is highly reliable and scaleable for small, medium, or large applications.
Additionally, Lucent Speech Solutions has recently released a new tool, called the Custom Dictionary Editor, which allows users to quickly and effectively modify the way a word or phrase is pronounced. With this Dictionary Editor, TTS or
speech recognition applications can accommodate specific words that are unique to a specific industry or country.
For example, the system could be customized to include acronyms or jargon from the financial or medical industries that aren't found in the dictionary. The new tool also is ideal for companies deploying services globally or to specific regions of the country or world, since it
accounts for accents or language nuances.