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Vocalis launches talking Web sites

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Speech recognition specialist Vocalis Group plc wants people to talk to Web sites instead of viewing them using traditional graphics-based browsers. The Cambridgeshire-based company wants to sign up 1000 companies in the UK to take part in a trial next year that will test the appeal of using their text-to-speech technology. Using any phone, users simply dial into a site fitted with Vocalis' SpeecHTML software and request the information they require. The system also enables users to conduct transactions over the phone just as they would use a normal Web browser. Vocalis claims that this is a cost-effective way of offering information for those who don't have ready access to a PC since all they need is a telephone. Moreover, companies using the scheme don't have to operate call centres or employ staff to handle enquiries because the information is translated into speech from the text they already have prepared. "This pilot is the first step in providing every company with a telephone information and transaction service as part of their Web facilities," said Mike Williams, business development director at Vocalis. A spokeswoman for the company denied that this technology would be made redundant once hand-held devices providing Web access become widely available. But she did conform that anyone with a particularly strong accent, speech impediment or a bad cold may encounter problems using the system. ®

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