I was tasked with doing a UC demo by our illustrious leader at a recent group meeting. The brief was simple you have 5-10 minutes to blow them away. Not an easy task to achieve to an audience of about 250 who have mostly seen and are using Microsoft UC on a day to day basis. Escalating to a video call was not going to cut it.

After a brief chat we decided upon an OCS Speech Server Demo. This is something I always planned on doing but never really got around to it - probably because I am NOT a developer and so put it to the back of my to-do list.

But this gave me the push I needed so with a bit of trepidation I embarked on the challenge. The remit was simple install OCS Speech server, attach a softphone to it and get it to answer and then get it to ask questions to which it understands your answers.

Using the Wibbly Wobbly web I set about looking for some samples to butcher for my demo.

Surprisingly this was quite simple there is a great site called www.gotspeech.net that allows you to download a whole load of training material and samples.  What it also has is a Sliverlight presentation showing you exactly what to do to create and run simple apps.

The demo was going to answer the call - get the user to supply a DTMF code  which it would recognise and work out who you were and then ask some question and finally ask you to record a message.

Easy eh,,, well to my surprise it was - it was very easy and I think this is one of the major benefits of the whole solution is that you can use Windows Workflow Foundation.

After installing Visual Studio 2005, OCS Speech Server 2007 I started to play around with it. It is very gratifying to just be able to drag and drop a speech component onto a workflow add some text and have a server talking to me and understanding my responses.

I appreciate that my demo is very simple and I also appreciate that there are a very talented and knowledgeable speech application developers who really make this fly. My intention is not to devalue any of the brilliant work they do

The point of my post is that to try and make sure you do not dismiss this area of Unified Communications because it is something you have not done before. But get  it up and running and play with it because it will really make you think and realise the possibilities that this OCS component offers.

Other good sources of info - the forum and Michael Dunns' book, Microsoft Pro Speech Server 2007