The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has extended speech on the Web wiht support for Asian languages and multi-lingual voice applications. The Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML 1.1) . Recommendation provides control over voice selection as well as speech characteristics such as pronunciation, volume, and pitch. SSML is part of W3C's Speech Interface Framework for building voice applications, which also includes the widely deployed VoiceXML and the Pronunciation Lexicon (for providing speech engines guidance on proper pronunciation).
"With SSML 1.1 there is an intentional focus on Asian language support," said Dan Burnett, Co-Chair of the Voice Browser Working Group and Director of Speech Technologies and Standards at Voxeo, "including Chinese languages, Japanese, Thai, Urdu, and others, to provide a wide deployment potential. With SSML 1.0 we already had strong traction in North America and western Europe, so this focus makes SSML 1.1 incredibly strong globally. We are really pleased to have many collaborators in China, in particular, focusing on SSML improvements and iterations."
The multi-lingal enhancements in this version of SSML result from discussions at W3C Workshops held in China, Greece, and India. SSML 1.1 also provides application designers greater control over voice selection and handling of content in unexpected languages.
Estimates suggest that around 85% of voice response (IVR) systems deployed in North America and Western Europe use VoiceXML and SSML. The new version of SSML will open significant new markets, thanks to the improved support for non-Western European languages. A number of North American and European vendors of text-to-speech (TTS) products have indicated they expect to support SSML 1.1 within the coming year.