Open source voice AI effort prioritizes trust, interoperability

Market news |
By Rich Pell

Created to support organizations as they develop, design, and manage their own voice assistant systems that are independent of today’s general-purpose voice platforms, the Open Voice Network aims to deliver standards and usage guidelines for voice assistant systems that are trustworthy, inclusive, and open. Founding members include Target, Schwarz Gruppe, Wegmans Food Markets, Microsoft, Veritone, and Deutsche Telekom.

The transition to such independent systems, says the organization, is being driven by the desire to manage the entirety of the user experience – from the sound of the voice, the sonic branding, and the content – to integrating voice assistance into multiple business processes and brand environments from the call center, to the branch office and the store. Perhaps most importantly, organizations know they must protect the consumer and the proprietary data that flows through voice.

Voice is expected to be a primary digital interface going forward and will result in a hybrid ecosystem of general-purpose platforms and independent voice assistants that demand interoperability between conversational agents of different platforms and voice assistants. Open Voice Network is dedicated to supporting this transformation with industry guidance on the voice-specific protection of user privacy and data security.

“Voice is expected to be a primary interface to the digital world, connecting users to billions of sites, smart environments and AI bots,” says Mike Dolan, senior vice president and general manager of Projects at the Linux Foundation. “It is already increasingly being used beyond smart speakers to include applications in automobiles, smartphones and home electronics devices of all types. Key to enabling enterprise adoption of these capabilities and consumer comfort and familiarity is the implementation of open standards. The potential impact of voice on industries including commerce, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment is staggering and we’re excited to bring it under the open governance model of the Linux foundation to grow the community and pave a way forward.”

Much as open standards in the earliest days of the Internet brought a uniform way to exchange information and connect with any site anywhere, the Open Voice Network aims to bring the same standardized ease of development and use to voice assistant systems and conversational agents, leading to huge growth and value for businesses and consumers alike. Voice assistance depends upon technologies like Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Advanced Dialog Management (ADM) and Machine Learning (ML).

The Open Voice Network will initially be focused on the following areas:

  • Standards development: research and recommendations toward the global standards that will enable user choice, inclusivity, and trust.
  • Industry value and awareness: identification and sharing of conversational AI best practices that are both horizontal and specific to vertical industries, serving as the source of insight and value for voice assistance.
  • Advocacy: working with and through existing industry associations on relevant regulatory and legislative issues, including those of data privacy.

Membership to the Open Voice Network includes a commitment of resources in support of the its research, awareness, and advocacy activities and active participation in the its symposia and workshops. The Linux Foundation open governance model, says the organization, will allow for community-wide contributions that will accelerate conversational AI standards rollout and adoption.

The Linux Foundation

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