Today we opened the public beta site for Microsoft Speech Server 2007,  if you want to know more then take a look here.

Speech Server has been available before in previous versions but this is a significant release as it includes support for VoiceXML (industry standard mark-up language for voice recognition) as well as supporting a number of other locales/languages other than US American.

If you got this far in the posting then you might be wondering what exactly Speech Server is.  Although I am sure a number of father-in-laws and bestmen would love it to be a solution to write speeches for weddings,  it is in fact an IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) system than can voice enable applications,  such as telephone directories,  customer service systems and even your email mailbox (coming in Exchange 2007).

I used this myself at a Microsoft internal conference a few years ago and even with earlier versions I could phone a telephone number,  say the name of the person I wanted to speak to and would then be asked if it was their hotel or mobile I would like to call …. as you can imagine this came in very useful when trying to find what bar people were in (on the few days we did manage not to do work in the evening of course :-)).  Lately I have used it as part of my Exchange 2007 demonstrations and people are pleasantly surprised with the results and how well it deals with different accents.

Without getting into to much detail,  this new release also makes it easier for developers to create their own IVR systems because of the following

  • Drag and drop integration into Visual Studio
  • Better ‘conversational understanding’ i.e. you tell it to understand ‘I will be late’ and it will also understand ‘I’ll be late’ and ‘I’m going to be late’

As you would expect,  there is support for Voice over IP,  SIP and RTP which means that if you are are interesting in products like Live Communication Server 2005 and Exchange 2007 then this is certainly something you should also keep an eye on in the future.

Let me know if you would like to hear more and I will try and cover it on my blog or possibly via PTS TV