Oracle Adding Voice Access To Products

Oracle adds voice-recognition technology to its Oracle9i Application Server Wireless product.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

August 2, 2001

2 Min Read

Oracle is betting that after more than 20 years of improvements in voice recognition and speech technology, the time is finally right to use it to access its database products and applications.

Leading the charge for Oracle is its OracleMobile division, which is integrating voice support into its Oracle9i Application Server Wireless product. The core technology will then be used in other products, including Oracle E-Business Suite, OracleMobile Online Studio, and Oracle JDeveloper. Oracle says that because of improvements in voice-recognition technology and the creation of Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Extensible Markup Language, the voice system can operate with a 95% accuracy rate.

"Voice is the ultimate thin client," says Jacob Christfort, VP and chief technology officer of OracleMobile, the mobile products and services division of Oracle. "We would've loved to do this five years ago, but the reality is that voice engines weren't ready and our technology stack also had to mature to this level."

In order to add voice access to its products, Oracle has partnered with a number of companies, including Nuance and SpeechWorks for Automatic Speech Recognition and Text-to-Speech technologies; General Magic, Intel, Motorola, Verascape, and VoiceGenie for voice Gateways and telephony platforms; and Vail Systems for voice-application hosting.

AnyTransactions Inc., a voice-applications services provider in Atlanta, has been testing the Oracle system since March. AnyTransactions, which hopes to develop voice-access apps, believes that call centers and catalog sales will be the first easy fits for such technology. "You see that using the phone as an extension of Web self-service or Web E-commerce is a very logical thing to do," Eric Tumperi, CEO of AnyTransactions. "People don't have to have a wireless device or a PDA to interact with it--they've already got a telephone. What we are effectively doing is taking call-center personnel out of the equation."

Voice-access technology has clear symmetries for use with wireless devices, but some analysts are still adopting a wait-and-see attitude. "The obvious thing to say in the realm of voice and wireless, is 'wouldn't it be great if you could use voice instead of these tiny keyboards?'" says Dwight Davis, VP of analyst firm Summit Strategies. "We may be at the point where Oracle can provide this kind of technology and it will prove more useful than frustrating, but I won't draw any conclusions until Oracle's solution gets out in the market and gets some play."

Voice support for Oracle9i Application Server Wireless is available now for developers. The next version of the server, which is due in November, will include voice support. Oracle has also opened a voice technology development center in Chicago.

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