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Voice-driven Applications on the Brain

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I took the last two days off to attend the AdhersionConf 2013, that was hosted by Ben Klang and the crew at MojoLingo. Adhersion is a Ruby framework for building telephony applications. With it, you can write a server application in Ruby that is accessed my customers over a phone call for instance and more.

My purpose for attending is that voice-based use cases that involve Automatic Speech Recognition and good Speech Synthesis are becoming increasingly exciting as the technology has reached a point where it is available on most mobile devices and services are now available for web developers working with very modest budgets! Additionally, it is just so much fun to think about creating the Star Trek computer or an artificial intelligence system capable of human-style communication, though both goals are presumably decades in the future.

The conference was a lot of fun. Being that it was hosted right in my backyard, it was amazing to see that some attendees had travelled from Canada, Ireland, and Italy!

At the end of the conference, I was amazed to see that a world of voice and phone applications that I had not previously thought were tractable are well within the realm of possibility. One idea that I want to address in our own company is issue of interrupting programmers who are working, because studies have shown that a series of small interruption leads to hours of unproductively at high costs. The details of this issue is beyond the scope of this post, but I recommend reading Programmer interrupted by Chris Parnin and Worker, Interrupted: the Cost of Task Switching by Kermit Pattison.

My idea is to build a system that is aware of who our clients are and who has projects that are scheduled on the calendar today or in the coming days. That way the system can make informed decisions about the best way to direct an incoming phone call to minimize distracting interruptions – since we are all programmers working on projects. It would not need to be specifically updated because it would be connected to our billing, calendar, and project management systems through the those APIs.

Both Jamey Owens and Ben Langfield patiently listened as I, a complete voice beginner, talked through the kernel of this idea for this automatic phone screening system. Based on their encouragement, I will be experimenting with the latest Adhersion and the Telephony-Dev-Box. It seems that my idea is entirely practical and can be implemented entirely in Ruby!

This should be a fun project! I invite you to check out what is going on with the amazing open source telephony projects and try them out for yourself.

About Frank Rietta

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Frank Rietta is specialized in working with startups, new Internet businesses, and in developing with the Ruby on Rails platform to build scalable businesses. He is a computer scientist with a Masters in Information Security from the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He teaches about security topics and is a contributor to the security chapter of the 7th edition of the "Fundamentals of Database Systems" textbook published by Addison-Wesley.

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