Hypervoice: the new 'bionic' Voice in Unified Communications

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Unified Communications is clearly a huge success, both for users and vendors. As a speaker at last year’s Unified Communications Expo event, I can attest to the vibrancy of this space. UC technology powers ‘bionic employees’ by amplifying their ability to coordinate and cooperate.

Whilst UC brings great benefits, it also can have drawbacks. The message inbox can feel like a denial-of-service attack launched by computers against human attention and time. We bias our communications towards text, because that is what computers are good at storing, searching and sharing. The joins between the different communications modalities can feel unnatural. UC is at times rather like creating a ‘water room’ in a home with a toilet, kitchen, bath and paddling pool. It can be ‘unified’ in one place, but to what user experience and business ends?

Something has been missing – something that makes full unification of communications possible. That omission is how we treat the most natural and nuanced way that people communicate: the human voice.

With long-form text documents, we have seen an evolutionary journey, first from typewriters to word processors on stand-alone computers. We then we networked the computers, and gave the documents URLs, to get hypertext and the Web. Likewise with short messages, we have seen a journey from inter-office paper memos and faxes to email, instant messaging and now UC. Activity streams give those messages URLs, and are in effect ‘hypermessaging’.

However, when we want to communicate using voice, we find ourselves regressing backwards to telephony (or telephony-like substitutes), and the computers ‘go dumb’ throughout the interaction. Hypervoice technology completes the forward evolutionary journey for UC voice, by making the computers ‘stay smart’ as we talk. It enables UC and voice to evolve from an isolated ‘message processor’ into a fully- networked Web-era hypermedium.

The idea behind hypervoice is very simple, and is an extension of a clear pattern of ever-richer hypermedia: hypertext links one document to another; hypermessaging links events to activity streams; and hypervoice links what we say to what we do. For example, if I open a customer record during a conversation, there is a good chance that part of the conversation is about that customer.

Notably, hypervoice isn’t about trying to turn voice into transcribed text: we are trying to make things easier for humans, not computers. Instead, by making recorded voice into a medium that can be searched, shared and syndicated we no longer force conversations into text just for the convenience of computers.

Hypervoice technology unifies communications around the human, not around the messaging technology. It allows people to stay productive in their native tongue, at their natural pace of communication. Indeed, it gives us a new bionic power: perfect recall of every conversation.

Martin Geddes will be speaking about and demonstrating hypervoice technology at Unified Communications Expo on 5th March. Further information on hypervoice technology and the Hypervoice Consortium is available at hypervoice.org.

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