The W3C Speech API - A Google Initiative
Written by Alex Armstrong   
Monday, 05 November 2012

A Web Speech API Specification has recently been published together with a call for Final Specification Commitments from members of the W3C Speech API Community Group. 

The specification is for a JavaScript API that will enable web developers to incorporate scripts into their web pages that can generate text-to-speech output and can use speech recognition as an input for forms, continuous dictation and control.

The HTML Speech Incubator Group was originally formed in August 2010 with initiating members from Microsoft, Google, Voxeo, AT&T, Mozilla and OpenStream. Proposals for API specifications were made by Google and by Microsoft.

It produced a  HTML Speech Incubator Group Final Report in December 2011 outlining  the use cases developed by the group and requirements ordered by priority of interest of the group members It also contained a preliminary proposal for a JavaScript API and associated HTML bindings.

This diagram from the report outlines what items would be in and out of scope for the final solution to the task the group had begun:

 

speechapi400(click to enlarge)

 

Within a matter of two weeks of this report Google came up with a proposal for a Speech JavaScript API Specification that supported 15 of the 17 use cases defined in the HTML Speech Incubator Group Final Report.

  • Voice Web Search
  • Speech Command Interface
  • Domain Specific Grammars Contingent on Earlier Inputs
  • Continuous Recognition of Open Dialog
  • Domain Specific Grammars Filling Multiple Input Fields
  • Speech UI present when no visible UI need be present
  • Voice Activity Detection
  • Hello World
  • Speech Translation
  • Speech Enabled Email Client
  • Dialog Systems
  • Multimodal Interaction
  • Speech Driving Directions
  • Multimodal Video Game
  • Multimodal Search

The remaining two were omitted to keep the API to a minimum:

  • Re-recognition
  • Temporal Structure of Synthesis to Provide Visual Feedback

A Speech API Community Group was formed in April 2012 to continue work on this specification. It is chaired by Glen Shires from Google who one of the editors of the draft Speech API, and has five other Google member plus representatives of W3C, the World Wide Web Foundation, Mozilla, OpenReach and some others. Its Web Speech API Specification has been edited by Glen Shires and Hans Wennborg also from Google.

At the moment the API specification doesn't have the status of  a W3C Standard nor is it on the W3C Standards Track. So far only the Google member of the Speech API Community Group have  committed to the Web Speech Specification. Chrome is the only browser to have the speech API - let's hope the other's follow and we have a standard rather than a mess. 

 

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