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Firms Work Toward Voice-Enabled Unified Messaging

Unified messaging specialist Tornado Development has paired its technology with that of MIT-powered speech technology expert SpeechWorks.

In a deal that can characterize the firms as proud parents of voice-enabled unified messaging upon its completion, the firms will bring the solution to market in Q1 2001. Specifically, SpeechWorks bundled its widely-recognized speech recognition capability to Tornado's UM engine Tornado Messenger.

SpeechWorks, which made significant inroads in the biometric realm in September when it promised to offer speech verification technology in conjunction with its scads of speech recognition products, lets consumers direct their calls, obtain messaging information and conduct a transactions by speaking over any phone, any time.

SpeechWorks' Speechify™ application is a next-generation TTS engine that converts text into natural-sounding spoken words.

With Tornado Messenger, service providers can give end-users access to all of their messages from standard and cellular telephones, personal computers, Web browsers, wireless handsets and personal digital assistants.

With voice-enabled UM, end-users will be able to streamline all fax, voice, e-mail messages and address book information, from any phone using spoken commands. Examples of this include commands such as "e-mail this to Joe, "forward to Mary," and "call Dad at home."

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Tornado Development Chief Executive Officer Jeff Scheinrock underscored the importance of unified messaging for the future of the Web.

"The digital age has brought an incredible increase in the amount and variety of messages that the average individual needs to access," Scheinrock said. "Unified Messaging is the ultimate answer to this proliferation of messaging and speech recognition is the ideal interface for ease-of-use."

In a similar September play, SpeechWorks teamed with Palm Inc. to allow users of Palm's AnyDay Web-based calendar service to retrieve information using spoken commands from any phone.

In addition to partnering with Palm, SpeechWorks customers include America Online Inc., E*Trade and Yahoo!.



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