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Creating Multimodal Applications Using the IBM Multimodal Toolkit

As computing becomes more pervasive, different kinds of user input such as voice are required. Get a head start on learning how to include client-side voice technology using the IBM Multimodal Toolkit.

he merging of computing with our everyday life—through computers, personal digital assistants, cell phones, and a plethora of other gadgets—is driving a trend towards pervasive computing, in which computing is becoming a backdrop to our daily activities. IBM, long a leader in the pervasive computing arena, is one of three firms driving a standard to support multimodal interfaces to mobile devices through the XHTML+Voice markup language, an XML application that leverages XHTML and VoiceXML to provide voice-and-video interfaces to Web applications from desktop and handheld computers. Using tools such as the IBM Multimodal toolkit, you can learn how to extend your application to include voice control and output using a multimodal browser such as the ones available from Access and Opera.

These multimodal interfaces let you differentiate your application from others in two keys ways. First, your application can accept and parse voice input in Web forms, meaning that a user can use your application without needing to resort to a keyboard, mouse, or stylus. Second, your application can provide key pieces of information including warnings, prompts, and search results using voice synthesis, which adds an additional dimension to the presentation of results. Because these technologies leverage XML and the traditional Web browsing paradigm, it's easy for you to work these features into your Web-based application. There's very little overhead involved and you needn't build a sophisticated client-side application using a native platform's (such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X) support for voice recognition and synthesis.

The IBM Multimodal toolkit requires Windows 2000 or later, and a copy of IBM WebSphere Site Studio or IBM WebSphere Application Studio 5.1.1. Installation is through a clickable installer available from IBM's Pervasive Computing here.

As you install the IBM Multimodal Toolkit, you also have the option to install one or more multimodal browsers from Access and Opera for testing your application. You should definitely install one or the other (or both!) and also consider downloading a handheld version of the same browser from the IBM Pervasive Computing for your target mobile device (at this point, both Microsoft PocketPC and Sharp Zaurus are supported).

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