Improving the quality of spoken text on the web

The W3C Accessible Platform Architecture’s Spoken Presentation Task Force is working to develop a standard mechanism to allow authors to control how web content should be presented via text to speech synthesizers (TTS) used by assistive technologies (such as screen readers). Other beneficiaries of this work would be the voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

One simple example can be seen with the following sentence:

According the 2010 US Census, the population of 90274 increased to 25209 from 24976 over the past 10 years.

Without presentation control, the zip code 90274 is read as ninety thousand two hundred and seventy four.

With SSML markup, the author could specify that the zip code be read as digits.

According the 2010 US Census, the population of <say-as interpret-as="digits">90274</say-as> increased to 25209 from 24976 over the past 10 years.

I will repeat the sentence once again, below, using in-line SSML. This version has the actual SSML markup shown above embedded in the HTML. Consider it an experiment as we explore methods by which the SSML can be consumed.

According the 2010 US Census, the population of 90274 increased to 25209 from 24976 over the past 10 years.

Now once, more, with the SSML say-as embedded in the HTML using a data-attribute, which looks like this: <span data-ssml='{"say-as" : {"interpret-as":"digits"}}'>90274</span>

According the 2010 US Census, the population of 90274 increased to 25209 from 24976 over the past 10 years.

IDRC 2010 @ Davos

Global Risk Forum DavosThe Global Risk Forum’s International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC2010) is on this week in Davos, Switzerland. I’m joined by colleagues from Finland and the US in both a workshop and special session focused on Mobile Technology and ICT for Disaster Preparedness, Warning, and Response.

IDRC has become a favorite conference of mine, having previously attended IDRC 2007 in Harbin, China, and IDRC 2008, in Davos. The Global Risk Forum and IDRC spun out of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction under the leadership of Walter Ammann.

The conference itself brings together  academics, researchers, governments, industry, and NGOs to focus on the key issues in disaster risk reduction.  This year has already seen significant events, ranging from the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes to the ongoing BP oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, there is never a shortage of tragedy for discussion.

Our workshop Sunday morning presaged a great conference. As we walked in to the meeting room just before the 9am start (after a late night arrival from Zurich), we were greeted by a fantastic group of attendees ready to get started.  The three hours went by like lightning and I look forward to continuing the discussion in person this week and online beyond the IDRC conference.