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SpeechCycle RPA Express Powers Voice Apps

SpeechCycle hopes to entice legions of .NET developers into building interactive, voice-driven applications -- what the company calls rich phone applications (RPA) -- by positioning voice as simply another flavor of .NET application, alongside desktop apps and browser-based Web apps. The company's RPA Express suite of component libraries, speech application server software and design tools integrate with Visual Studio 2008 to help .NET developers quickly build voice-driven applications. Support for Visual Studio 2010 is planned.

"This platform is today focused on niche phone applications in the traditional phone call space. But this platform is positioned for the future," said Michael Levy, principle software architect at SpeechCycle. "Whether you want to talk to the application or whether you want to text to the application or whether you want a touch screen to interact with the application, our tools will support that."

Levy said RPA Express provides an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that lets .NET developers quickly wire up phone-based interaction using pre-built components, called RPA Interaction Providers. The providers include pre-built behaviors that reflect best practices developed by SpeechCycle over years building and deploying speech-driven telephone applications for telecommunication providers, said Levy.

RPA Express consists of the RPA Interaction Providers, RPA Compose visual authoring tool, RPA Transact application server, RPA Orchestrate backend Web and WCF services integration layer, and the RPA Dashboard monitoring facility. The suite uses standard VoiceXML markup, analogous to HTML, to pass vocal input through a voice browser to the application server, and to render VoiceXML output to the user as sound.

Levy said SpeechCycle crafted its application stack to hew to familiar programming approaches. The RPA Express design tools, for example, are implemented as a domain specific language directly in Visual Studio. The stack is also built on ASP.NET.

"RPA Transact is actually an ASP.NET Web application. So all the best practices your readers have developed for building an ASP.NET application are immediately available for building RPA applications using RPA Express," he explained.

RPA licensing covers the entire development stack, including the RPA Transact application server, with costs varying based on traffic. Levy said enterprise license costs could fall in the area of $50,000 per server. A free trial version of RPA Express, downloadable here, provides complete feature functionality, but is limited to serving two active connections at a time.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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