Voice Activated Internet Porn?

Voice Activated Internet Porn?
Gretchen Gallen
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Voice-activated computer commands are close to becoming a reality, says the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), although after a year in the works, the web specification VoiceXML 2.0 is so embroiled in patent disputes it might be a long time before it sees the light of day.

There is speculation that voice-activated control of the Internet could transform the web in radical ways and could potentially give way to a fleet of new technologies and Internet enhancements, like voice-activated porn, although even just the concept is a long way from becoming a reality.

According to CNET, VoiceXML enables server data to be retrieved using voice commands and touch-tones. The technology also allows text-to-speech translation, CNET reports, which means that surfers can vocally request information to be delivered via the web.

The dispute that is keeping VoiceXML 2.0 from rushing to the forefront as an industry standard is between the software developers, the W3C, and a Rutgers University patent that claims to have patented the same technology three years ago, CNET reports. Avaya Communications and Dutch electronics company Royal Philips Electronics also lay claim to nonessential patents on the technology.

As with many patent issues facing the Internet industry, the Rutgers patent claim would mean that developers who use VoiceXML to develop future technologies will be stuck with steep licensing fees on a standard that was previously thought to be unpatented and fresh out of the starting gate.

Debate has been raging for a while now over the issue of patented standards, as seen in cases like the SCO Group's claim that its Unix copyrights make it eligible for licensing fees from Linux developers.

To ad fire to the debate over VoiceXML, the W3C recently came out with a controversial policy lately that it would only grant specifications for unpatented technologies. Many developers are furious that VoiceXML does not fall into that category and that the W3C has not been in obeyance of its own policy.

In the meantime, the W3C has assigned a patent advisory group regarding Rutgers patent claim and has so far managed to negotiate non-infringement terms with Avaya over the future development of VoiceXML technology. According to CNET, Royal Philips Electronics has transferred its VoiceXML patents for royalty-free use.

An investigation is still pending into the validity of the Rutgers patents on VoiceXML. According to CNET, W3C has attempted to contact the university, but there has so far been no response.

"Until a patent owner asserts claims, we don't see an issue," a W3C representative was quoted by CNET as saying. "The patent holder is usually in the best position to know their own patent. And whether they assert correctly or not is another story."