Nov 30, 2008

Tech - Talk to the Web — and it will talk back!

Anand Parthasarathy

Bangalore: Websites are so ‘yesterday’! Say hello to ‘voice sites.’

Technologists have agonised on how to take the benefits of the Internet to the world’s billions who can neither afford nor access a computer. If they cannot read or write, this makes the task even more challenging.

IBM’s network of scientists based in eight research labs worldwide — and led by the India team — has developed a technology that might be the answer to this challenge. It is called Spoken Web and uses Voice Sites and Voice Links, in a manner similar to the way we harness websites and weblinks today.

One can browse the Web on a normal telephone line: no PC, no keyboard, just by using voice. Checking email, carrying out an e-commerce transaction or going to one’s favourite information site — they can all be achieved by simple speech. A dream today, it will be a reality within five years, says Guruduth Banavar, Director, IBM India Research Laboratory.

With less than 17 per cent of the world’s population having Internet access, Spoken Web is seen as an important way to bridge the gap. It is one of five innovations unveiled by IBM this week, part of its annual ‘Next Five by Five’ list — five technologies that have the potential, within five years, to change lives for people everywhere.

Other innovations on which IBM scientists are working include solar panels built into asphalt on roads; personal genetic maps that will tell you precisely what health hazards you will face in the rest of your life; memory aids to overcome today’s information overload and digital shopping assistants.

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