VOICES video

As the VOICES project is ending, we wanted to wrap up our results in the form of a nice video. The result shows the three systems (RadioMarche, Foroba Blon and Tabale) that have been deployed and tested in Mali, Africa. The video was shot by people from the project and edited by Pepijn Borgwat from Synergique and myself. There is an English and a French version, both are embedded below.

 

The Web Of Voices (english) and Le Web Par La Voix (francais) from Synergique

 

 

ICT 4 Development course final presentations

[crosspost from worldwidesemanticweb.wordpress.com]

This friday, a brand new course at the VU University Amsterdam came to a satisfying close. The ICT 4 Development course (ICT4D) was offered to VUA Computer Science students for the first  year and I feel it was a success. The course, which was a collaboration between the Computer Science department and the Center for International Cooperation of the same university, aimed to teach students how one should go about designing and deploying ICT projects in developing areas.

Student group presenting their XO deployment planTo this end, the students learned about the importance of considering local socio-economic contexts but also got to experience two technologies often used for development projects. The students received a crash course in the Sugar operating system for the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project and were presented with a tutorial on VoiceXML for developing voice-based applications. Students formed groups and chose either one of these technologies to solve a real-world problen in its development context.

The course ended today with student group presentations. Three groups presented an XO deployment. One of these included an agricultural program in Namibia that involves teaching children about growing local food next to their schools. The XO laptop can assist this education by providing tips for growing the crops. Two other presentations focused on XO deployments in neighbouring countries Iran and Iraq and included mockups and prototypes for XO programs (activities) that assist children both inside and outside school. There is even a good chance that the program in Iraq will actually be deployed and one of the teachers (who happened to be one of the student’s mother) was present at the presentation.

student group presenting their VoiceXML moduleThe fourth group developed an additional voice module for the RadioMarché system currently deployed in Mali, allowing local farmers to call in with their mobile phones when they want to sell produce. A voice menu enables them to tell the system how much of a specific product they have to offer and how much money they want in return.

All in all, this trip around the world showed how much the students have learned. We hope some of the projects will actually lead to real deployments and are looking forward to teaching the course again next year.

Voice Access to Malian linked data

Statue talking on the phone (foto via Flickr by gadgetdan)A quick update related to the Malian Linked Data post. The Voices project is mainly concerned with voice access to Web information, to allow the local users in the developing countries themselves being able to access the data using simple 2g mobile phones. Therefore I have experimented with providing some form of voice access to the linked market data. This resulted in a small prototype demonstrator.

The voice service is built using VoiceXML , the industry standard for developing voice applications. Although in a deployment version we cannot assume that text-to-speech (TTS) libraries are available for the local languages, we here only implement English-language access to the data, using English TTS.

The prototype voice application is running on the Voxeo Evolution platform. The platform includes a voice browser, which is able to interpret VoiceXML documents, includes (English) TTS and provides a number of ways to access the Voice application. These include the Skype VoIP number +990009369996162208 and the local (Dutch) phone number +31208080855.

When any of these numbers is called, the voice application accesses a VoiceXML document hosted on a remote server. This document contains the dialogue structure for the application. In the current demonstrator, the caller is presented with three options, to browse the data by product or region, or to listen to the latest offering. The caller presses the code on his or her keypad (this is Dual Tone Multi-Frequency or DTMF). The voice application interprets the choice and forwards the caller to a new voice menu.

For products, the caller must select the type of product (“press 1 for Tamarind”, “press 2 for Honey”, etc.), for regions the caller is presented with a list of regions to choose from. Based on the choice the application then accesses a PHP document on the remote server, the choice is copied as a HTTP GET variable.

Based on the choice, a SPARQL query is constructed. This SPARQL query is then passed to the RadioMarche Linked Data server, which returns the appropriate results. For a product query, all (recent) offerings about that product are returned. The SPARQL
result is then transformed into VoiceXML and articulated to the caller.

The demonstrator is now in a very early prototype version, so not everything might work all the time.

The above paragraphs are also part of a  paper submitted to the Downscale2012 workshop.