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Opera Software is to include IBM's embedded speech recognition technology ViaVoice in the next version of its Web browser.

Web users will be able to navigate, request information and complete Web forms by speaking, which should offer added convenience as more users access the Web on smaller, mobile devices, Opera said.

"Voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate. In the years to come it will greatly facilitate how we interact with technology," said Christen Krogh, Opera's vice president of engineering. "By making this technology available today for the Wider Web audience, the serious work of voice-enabling the Web can commence."

According to Opera, Web developers can add voice input and output to traditional HTML-based pages by using the XHTML+Voice (X+V) markup language. In a swipe at Microsoft, Opera said the technology could even let users replace PowerPoint: using the Opera Show presentation tool, users could create a multi-page presentation which they could show one page at a time using the voice command "page down," without approaching the computer.

Igor Jablokov, director of embedded speech at IBM and chairman of the Voice XML Forum, tthe technology can help Web users start interacting with content in a more natural way, combining speech with other input- output tools.

Opera bills its browser as faster, smaller and more standards-compliant than its rivals. The Norwegian firm recently debuted on the Oslo stock exchange and sold around 25 per cent of its share base for $35m.

© ENN

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