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Peter Thoeny
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Voice-Enabled Wikis
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Voice-Enabled Wikis

Why would you want to voice-enable your wiki? In what form? Lets look at a use case first: The construction industry.

Construction companies can use wikis to track commerical and residential construction projects and to build up a knowledge base of best practices. In a structured wiki, such as TWiki, project tracking and knowledge sharing can be done with simple forms based wiki applications. The challenge is connectivity. People at the construction site do not have internet access, but eveyone has a cell phone. Wouldn't it be nice to be able record a voice message to an appropriate wiki page? For example, to leave a voicemail for project 1745? Or, to call the wiki and to find out who the internal expert is on pneumatic Daytona Elevators? Or, to call the wiki, find out the recent changes, and have selected content spoken to you by a pleasant synthetic voice?

We did such an integration together with LignUp, Inc., a company that provides web services around voice technology. With their technology, web developers can quickly mashup voice and rich media into web applications.

Here is how the "record voicemail" feature works: Constructions workers are registered in TWiki; their homepages list the cell phone number and a voice pin number. There are two options to record a voicemail: Call a number, or click on a "record voicemail" button.

If you are away from a computer, you call a specific number, are greeted by a welcome message asking to enter a pin number. Once identified, the voice asks for a project ID. After a beep you record the message and press the # key.

If you are connected, you simply click on a record voicemail button. A window is popping up, informing you that your phone will ring. You answer the cell phone, and are greeted with: "Hello Peter Thoeny, please record your message for project 1021 after the beep, followed by the pound sign." After pressing the # sign, you hear: "Thank you. Your message will be posted to project 1021."

In both cases, your voicemail is posted to the appropriate TWiki topic as a file attachment in .wav format. In the wiki, you simply click on the message to hear it.

With text-to-speech technology it is also possible to send voice messages out of the wiki. You fill out a web form that has a field for the phone number, and a text area to type or paste a short message. This will call the number, and a computer generated voice is reading the message to the person.

There are many other use cases for voice enabled wikis, here are just a few ideas:

  • Call the wiki to find out recent changes.
  • Remote control a wiki: Navigate to topic, add content, move topic.
  • Using a cell phone, record a message and post it as a blog.
  • In a photo gallery, let people annotate photos.
  • Send reminders for action items with outbound voicemail.

The possibilities are endless, only bound by imagination.

I will demo the current TWiki voice integration tomorrow at the O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference in San Francisco, as part of the workshop on Utility Computing and the LignUp Voice Application Platform.

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