Patent application title: Method and Apparatus for Improving Voice recognition performance in a voice application distribution system
Michael S. Yuen (San Francisco, CA, US)
Leo Chiu (Daly City, CA, US)
Leo Chiu (Daly City, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AG10L1300FI
Class name: Speech signal processing synthesis image to speech
Publication date: 2010-05-06
Patent application number: 20100114578
Patent application title: Method and Apparatus for Improving Voice recognition performance in a voice application distribution system
Michael S. Yuen
Stevens Law Group
Origin: SAN JOSE, CA US
IPC8 Class: AG10L1300FI
Publication date: 05/06/2010
Patent application number: 20100114578
A vocabulary management system for constraining voice recognition
processing associated with text-to-speech and speech-to-text rendering
associated with use of a voice application in progress between a user
accessing a data source through a voice portal has a vocabulary
management server connected to a voice application server and to a
telephony server, and an instance of vocabulary management software
running on the management server for enabling vocabulary establishment
and management for voice recognition software. The system is
characterized in that an administrator accessing the vocabulary
management server uses the software to create unique vocabulary sets that
are specific to selected portions of vocabulary associated with target
data sources the vocabulary sets differing in content according to
1. A vocabulary management system for constraining voice recognition
processing associated with text-to-speech and speech-to-text rendering
associated with use of a voice application in progress between a user
accessing a data source through a voice portal comprising:a vocabulary
management server connected to a voice application server and to a
telephony server; andan instance of vocabulary management software
running on the management server for enabling vocabulary establishment
and management for voice recognition software;characterized in that an
administrator accessing the vocabulary management server uses the
software to create unique vocabulary sets that are specific to selected
portions of vocabulary associated with target data sources the vocabulary
sets differing in content according to administrator direction.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED DOCUMENTS
The present application is a Continuation of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/190,080, filed on Jul. 2, 2002, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein. That application is a Continuation In Part of a U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/173,333, filed Jun. 14, 2002, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein. That application (Ser. No. 173,333) claimed priority to Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/302,736 filed on Jul. 3, 2001, and incorporates all disclosure of that provisional application therein. The present application therefore claims priority to all of the applications described above in this paragraph.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is in the area of software application development and pertains particularly to methods and apparatus for improving voice recognition performance in a voice application distribution system.
A speech application is one of the most challenging applications to develop, deploy and maintain in a communications (typically telephony) environment. Expertise required for developing and deploying a viable application includes expertise in computer telephony integration (CTI) hardware and software, voice recognition software, text-to-speech software, and speech application logic.
With the relatively recent advent of voice extensive markup language (VXML) the expertise require to develop a speech solution has been reduced somewhat. VXML is a language that enables a software developer to focus on the application logic of the voice application without being required to configuring underlying telephony components. Typically, the developed voice application is run on a VXML interpreter that resides on and executes on the associated telephony system to deliver the solution.
As is shown in FIG. 1A (prior art) a typical architecture of a VXML-compliant telephony system comprises a voice application server (110) and a VXML-compliant telephony server (130). Typical steps for development and deployment of a VXML enabled IVR solutions are briefly described below using the elements of FIG. 1A.
Firstly, a new application database (113) is created or an existing one is modified to support VXML. Application logic 112 is designed in terms of workflow and adapted to handle the routing operations of the IVR system. VXML pages, which are results of functioning application logic, are rendered by a VXML rendering engine (111) based on a specified generation sequence.
Secondly, an object facade to server 130 is created comprising the corresponding VXML pages and is sent to server 130 over a network (120), which can be the Internet, an Intranet, or an Ethernet network. The VXML pages are integrated into rendering engine 111 such that they can be displayed according to set workflow at server 110.
Thirdly, the VXML-telephony server 130 is configured to enable proper retrieval of specific VXML pages from rendering engine 111 within server 110. A triggering mechanism is provided to server 110 so that when a triggering event occurs, an appropriate outbound call is placed from server 110.
A VXML interpreter (131), a voice recognition text-to-speech engine (132), and the telephony hardware/software (133) are provided within server 130 and comprise server function. In prior art, the telephony hardware/software 130 along with the VXML interpreter 131 are packaged as an off-the-shelf IVR-enabling technology. Arguably the most important feature, however, of the entire system is the application server 110. The application logic (112) is typically written in a programming language such as Java and packaged as an enterprise Java Bean archive. The presentation logic required is handled by rendering engine 111 and is written in JSP or PERL.
An enhanced voice application system is known to the inventor and disclosed in the U.S. patent application entitled "Method and Apparatus for Development and Deployment of a Voice Software Application for Distribution to one or more Application Consumers" to which this application claims priority. That system uses a voice application server that is connected to a data network for storing and serving voice applications. The voice application server has a data connection to a network communications server connected to a communications network such as the well-known PSTN network. The communication server routes the created voice applications to their intended recipients.
A computer station is provided as part of the system and is connected to the data network and has access to the voice application server. A client software application is hosted on the computer station for the purpose of enabling users to create applications and manage their states. In this system, the user operates the client software hosted on the computer station in order to create voice applications through object modeling and linking The applications, once created, are then stored in the application server for deployment. The user can control and manage deployment and state of deployed applications including scheduled deployment and repeat deployments in terms of intended recipients.
In one embodiment, the system is adapted for developing and deploying a voice application using Web-based data as source data over a communications network to one or more recipients. The enhanced system has a voice application server capable through software and network connection of accessing a network server and Web site hosted therein and for pulling data from the site. The computer station running a voice application software has control access to at least the voice application server and is also capable of accessing the network server and Web site. An operator of the computer station creates and provides templates for the voice application server to use in data-to-voice rendering. In this aspect, Web data can be harvested from a Web-based data source and converted to voice for delivery as dialogue in a voice application.
In another embodiment, a method is available in the system described above for organizing, editing, and prioritizing the Web-based data before dialog creation is performed. The method includes harvesting the Web-based data source in the form of its original structure; generating an object tree representing the logical structure and content type of the harvested, Web-based data source; manipulating the object tree generated to a desired hierarchal structure and content; creating a voice application template in VXML and populating the template with the manipulated object tree; and creating a voice application capable of accessing the Web-based data source according to the constraints of the template. The method allows streamlining of voice application deployment and executed state and simplified development process of the voice application.
A security regimen is provided for the above-described system. The protocol provides transaction security between a Web server and data and a voice portal system accessible through a telephony network on the user end and through an XML gateway on the data source end. The regimen includes one of a private connection, a virtual private network, or a secure socket layer, set-up between the Web server and the Voice Portal system through the XML gateway. Transactions carried on between the portal and the server or servers enjoy the same security that is available between secure nodes on the data network. In one embodiment, the regimen further includes a voice translation system distributed at the outlet of the portal and at the telephone of the end user wherein the voice dialog is translated to an obscure language not that of the users language and then retranslated to the users language at the telephone of the user.
In such as system where templates are used to enable voice application dialog transactions, voice application rules and voice recognition data are consulted for the appropriate content interpretation and response protocol so that the synthesized voice presented as response dialog through the voice portal to the user is both appropriate in content and hopefully error free in expression. The database, therefore is optimized with vocabulary words that enable a very wide range of speech covering many different vocabulary words akin to many differing business scenarios.
It has occurred to the inventor that the voice recognition and voice rendering functions of the system can be further optimized both in speed of performance and accuracy synthesized dialog instances by providing some form of vocabulary management for the different use embodiments.
What is clearly needed is an enhanced voice management system and method that limits the voice recognition to only vocabulary and rules options provided in conjunction with Web harvesting. Such a management system would enable the voice recognition portion of the system to cooperate to improve voice recognition by dynamically adapting the managed directory for each interaction step by interacting with the application logic and/or the database resource adapter.
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention a vocabulary management system for constraining voice recognition processing associated with text-to-speech and speech-to-text rendering associated with use of a voice application in progress between a user accessing a data source through a voice portal is provided, comprising a vocabulary management server connected to a voice application server and to a telephony server, and an instance of vocabulary management software running on the management server for enabling vocabulary establishment and management for voice recognition software. The system is characterized in that an administrator accessing the vocabulary management server uses the software to create unique vocabulary sets that are specific to selected portions of vocabulary associated with target data sources the vocabulary sets differing in content according to administrator direction.
In a preferred embodiment the voice portal is an interactive voice response unit operating in a telephony environment. Also in a preferred embodiment the data source is hosted on the Internet network and accessed from a telephony network. Still in a preferred embodiment the voice application server renders the data as VXML for text to speech recognition.
The unique vocabulary sets may be associated with unique rules sets for voice presentation to accessing users. Further, the unique vocabulary sets may be associated with unique vocabulary sub-sets that are specific to particular accessing users. These unique vocabulary sub-sets may be associated with unique rules sub-sets. In some cases the vocabulary sets contain both words found at the data source and words introduced by an administrator.
In another aspect of the invention a vocabulary management server for constraining voice recognition processing associated with text-to-speech and speech-to-text rendering associated with use of a voice application in progress between a user accessing a data source through a voice portal is provided, comprising a vocabulary management software application for creating and managing vocabulary sets, and a user interface for manipulating the software application. The server is characterized in that the server is configured to deliver specific vocabulary sets and rules sets for use in voice recognition in a voice application and deployment system to generate dialog with lower processing requirements of the voice recognition function.
In preferred embodiments the voice portal is an interactive voice response unit operating in a telephony environment. Also in preferred embodiments the data source is hosted on the Internet network and accessed from a telephony network. In some preferred cases the voice application server renders the data as VXML for text to speech recognition.
The vocabulary sets may be unique from one another and associated with unique rules sets for voice presentation to accessing users. Further, the unique vocabulary sets may be associated with unique vocabulary sub-sets that are specific to particular accessing users. The unique vocabulary sub-sets may be associated with unique rules sub-sets. In some cases the vocabulary sets contain both words found at the data source and words introduced by an administrator. Also in some cases the voice is rendered to the user over a telephone receiver.
In yet another aspect of the invention a method for limiting the processing requirement for voice recognition in a VXML compliant voice application and development system is provided, comprising steps of (a) providing a vocabulary management software instance for creating, editing, and organizing vocabulary sets for voice recognition; (b) creating a vocabulary set using the software, the set containing a portion of available vocabulary words associated with a data source to be used in dialog creation by the voice application; (c) configuring the voice application to use the created vocabulary set when voice recognition portion of the application is triggered; and (d) deploying the voice application to execution.
In preferred embodiments, in step (a), the vocabulary management software has access to application logic a database resource adapter of the voice application system. Also in preferred embodiments, in step (a), the vocabulary sets are specific to the data sources. In still other embodiments, in step (a), the vocabulary sets are specific to client activity in association with the data source. vocabulary sets may be associated with one or more vocabulary subsets. In step (b) the software may be manipulated through administrator input from a connected workstation hosting client voice application software. Also in step (b) the vocabulary words in the set also contain words introduced by an administrator.
In some cases in step (c) configuration includes accessing applicable rules associated with the vocabulary set. In some other cases in step (c) configuration further includes access of vocabulary subset organized under the vocabulary set and a rules subset organized under the rules set wherein the sub components are specific to a single client. In step (d) the voice application may be stored for execution in the voice application server. In other cases the execution includes distribution resulting from trigger by an accessing user, or presenting dialog to the user by way of outbound calling.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1A is a block diagram illustrating a basic architecture of a VXML-enabled IVR development and deployment environment according to prior-art.
FIG. 1B is a block diagram illustrating the basic architecture of FIG. 1A enhanced to practice the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a process flow diagram illustrating steps for creating a voice application shell or container for a VXML voice application according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating a simple voice application container according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating a dialog object model according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is a process flow diagram illustrating steps for voice dialog creation for a VXML-enabled voice application according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating a dialog transition flow after initial connection with a consumer according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 7 is a plan view of a developer's frame containing a developer's login screen of according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 8 is a plan view of a developer's frame containing a screen shot of a home page of the developer's platform interface of FIG. 7.
FIG. 9 is a plan view of a developer's frame containing a screen shot of an address book 911 accessible through interaction with the option Address in section 803 of the previous frame of FIG. 8.
FIG. 10 is a plan view of a developer's frame displaying a screen 1001 for creating a new voice application.
FIG. 11 is a plan view of a developer's frame illustrating screen of FIG. 10 showing further options as a result of scrolling down.
FIG. 12 is a screen shot of a dialog configuration window illustrating a dialog configuration page according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 13 is a screen shot 1300 of dialog design panel of FIG. 12 illustrating progression of dialog state to a subsequent contact.
FIG. 14 is a screen shot of a thesaurus configuration window activated from the example of FIG. 13 according to a preferred embodiment.
FIG. 15 is a plan view of a developer's frame illustrating a screen for managing created modules according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 16 is a block diagram of the dialog transition flow of FIG. 6 enhanced for Web harvesting according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 17 is a block diagram of the voice application distribution environment of FIG. 1B illustrating added components for automated Web harvesting and data rendering according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 18 is a block diagram illustrating a Web-site logical hierarchy harvested and created as an object model.
FIG. 19 is a block diagram illustrating the model of FIG. 18 being manipulated to simplify the model for economic rendering.
FIG. 20 is a process flow diagram illustrating intermediary steps for reducing complexity of a Web-site logical tree.
FIG. 21 is a block diagram illustrating a secure connectivity between a Voice Portal and a Web server according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 22 is a block diagram illustrating the architecture of FIG. 1B enhanced with a vocabulary management server and software according to an embodiment of the present invention.
According to preferred embodiments of the present invention, the inventor teaches herein, in an enabling fashion, a novel system for developing and deploying real-time dynamic or static voice applications in an object-oriented way that enables inbound or outbound delivery of IVR and other interactive voice solutions in supported communications environments.
FIG. 1A is a block diagram illustrating a basic architecture of a VXML-enabled IVR development and deployment environment according to prior art. As described with reference to the background section, the prior-art architecture of this example is known to and available to the inventor. Developing and deploying voice applications for the illustrated environment, which in this case is a telephony environment, requires a very high level of skill in the art. Elements of this prior-art example that have already been introduced with respect to the background section of this specification shall not be re-introduced.
In this simplified scenario, voice application server 110 utilizes database/resource adapter 113 for accessing a database or other resources for content. Application logic 112 comprising VXML script, business rules, and underlying telephony logic must be carefully developed and tested before single applications can be rendered by rendering engine 111. Once voice applications are complete and servable from server 110, they can be deployed through data network 120 to telephony server 130 where interpreter 131 and text-to speech engine 132 are utilized to formulate and deliver the voice application in useable or playable format for telephony software and hardware 133. The applications are accessible to a receiving device, illustrated herein as device 135, a telephone, through the prevailing network 134, which is in this case a public-switched-telephone-network (PSTN) linking the telephony server to the consumer (device 135) generally through a telephony switch (not shown).
Improvements to this prior-art example in embodiments of the present invention concern and are focused in the capabilities of application server 110 with respect to development and deployment issues and with respect to overall enhancement to response capabilities and options in interaction dialog that is bi-directional. Using the description of existing architecture deemed state-of-art architecture, the inventor herein describes additional components that are not shown in the prior-art example of FIG. 1A, but are illustrated in a novel version of the example represented herein by FIG. 1B.
FIG. 1B is a block diagram illustrating the basic architecture of FIG. 1A enhanced to illustrate an embodiment of the present invention. Elements of the prior-art example of FIG. 1A that are also illustrated in FIG. 1B retain their original element numbers and are not re-introduced. For reference purposes an entity (a person) that develops a voice application shall be referred to hereinafter in this specification as either a producer or developer.
A developer or producer of a voice application according to an embodiment of the present invention operates preferably from a remote computerized workstation illustrated herein as station 140. Station 140 is essentially a network-connected computer station. Station 140 may be housed within the physical domain also housing application server 110. In another embodiment, station 140 and application server 110 may reside in the same machine. In yet another embodiment, a developer may operate station 140 from his or her home office or from any network-accessible location including any wireless location.
Station 140 is equipped with a client software tool (CL) 141, which is adapted to enable the developer to create and deploy voice applications across the prevailing system represented by servers 110, 130, and by receiving device 135. CL 141 is a Web interface application similar to or incorporated with a Web browser application in this example, however other network situations may apply instead. CL 141 contains the software tools required for the developer to enable enhancements according to embodiments of the invention. Station 140 is connected to a voice portal 143 that is maintained either on the data network (Internet, Ethernet, Intranet, etc.) and/or within telephony network 134. In this example portal 143 is illustrated logically in both networks. Voice portal 143 is adapted to enable a developer or a voice application consumer to call in and perform functional operations (such as access, monitor, modify) on selected voice applications.
Within application server 110 there is an instance of voice application development server 142 adapted in conjunction with the existing components 111-113 to provide dynamic voice application development and deployment according to embodiments of the invention.
Portal 143 is accessible via network connection to station 140 and via a network bridge to a voice application consumer through telephony network 134. In one example, portal 143 is maintained as part of application server 110. Portal 143 is, in addition to an access point for consumers is chiefly adapted as a developer's interface server. Portal 143 is enabled by a SW instance 144 adapted as a server instance to CL 141. In a telephony embodiment, portal 143 may be an interactive voice response (IVR) unit.
In a preferred embodiment, the producer or developer of a voice application accesses application server 110 through portal 143 and data network 120 using remote station 140 as a "Web interface" and first creates a list of contacts. In an alternative embodiment, station 140 has direct access to application server 110 through a network interface. Contacts are analogous to consumers of created voice applications. CL 141 displays, upon request and in order of need, all of the required interactive interfaces for designing, modifying, instantiating, and executing completed voice applications to launch from application server 110 and to be delivered by server 130.
The software of the present invention enables voice applications to be modeled as a set of dialog objects having business and telephony (or other communication delivery/access system) rules as parameters without requiring the developer to perform complicated coding operations. A dialog template is provided for modeling dialog states. The dialog template creates the actual speech dialog, specifies the voice application consumer (recipient) of the dialog, captures the response from the voice application consumer and performs any follow-up actions based upon system interpretation of the consumer response. A dialog is a reusable component and can be linked to a new dialog or to an existing (stored) dialog. A voice application is a set of dialogs inter-linked by a set of business rules defined by the voice application producer. Once the voice application is completed, it is deployed by server 110 and is eventually accessible to the authorized party (device 135) through telephony server 130.
The voice applications are in a preferred embodiment in the form of VXML to run on VXML-compliant telephony server 130. This process is enabled through VXML rendering engine 111. Engine 111 interacts directly with server 130, locates the voice application at issue, retrieves its voice application logic, and dynamically creates the presentation in VXML and forwards it to server 130 for processing and delivery. Once interpreter 131 interprets the VXML presentation it is sent to or accessible to device 135 in the form of an interactive dialog (in this case an IVR dialog). Any response from device 135 follows the same path back to application server 110 for interpretation by engine 111. Server 110 then retrieves the voice application profile from the database accessible through adapter 113 and determines the next business rule to execute locally. Based upon the determination a corresponding operation associated with the rule is taken. A next (if required) VXML presentation is then forwarded to rendering engine 111, which in turn dynamically generates the next VXML page for interpretation, processing and deployment at server 130. This two-way interaction between the VXML-compliant telephony server (130) and the voice application server (110) continues in the form of an automated logical sequence of VXML dialogs until the voice application finally reaches its termination state.
A voice application (set of one or more dialogs) can be delivered to the consumer (target audience) in outbound or inbound fashion. For an inbound voice application, a voice application consumer calls in to voice portal 143 to access the inbound voice application served from server 130. The voice portal can be mapped to a phone number directly or as an extension to a central phone number. In a preferred embodiment the voice portal also serves as a community forum where voice application producers can put their voice applications into groups for easy access and perform operational activities such as voice application linking, reporting, and text-to-speech recording and so on.
For an outbound voice application there are two sub-types. These are on-demand outbound applications and scheduled outbound applications. For on-demand outbound applications server 110 generates an outbound call as soon as the voice application producer issues an outbound command associated with the application. The outbound call is made to the target audience and upon the receipt of the call the voice application is launched from server 130. For scheduled outbound applications, the schedule server (not shown within server 110) launches the voice application as soon as the producer-specified date and time has arrived. In a preferred embodiment both on-demand and scheduled outbound application deployment functions support unicast, multicast, and broadcast delivery schemes.
As described above, a voice application created by application server 110 consists of one or more dialogs. The contents of each dialog can be static or dynamic. Static content is content sourcing from the voice application producer. The producer creates the contents when the voice application is created. Dynamic content sources from a third-party data source.
In a preferred embodiment a developers tool contains an interactive dialog design panel (described in detail later) wherein a producer inputs a reference link in the form of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) to the dialog description or response field. When a dialog response is executed and interpreted by application server 110, the reference link invokes a resource Application-Program-Interface (API) that is registered in resource adapter 113. The API goes out in real time and retrieves the requested data and integrates the returned data into the existing dialog. The resulting and subsequent VXML page being generated has the dynamic data embedded onto it.
One object of the present invention is a highly dynamic, real time IVR system that tailors itself automatically to the application developer's specified data source requirement. Another object of the present invention is to enable rapid development and deployment of a voice application without requirement of any prior knowledge of VXML or any other programming technologies. A further object of the present invention is to reduce the typical voice application production cycle and drastically reduce the cost of production.
FIG. 2 is a process flow diagram illustrating steps for creating a voice application shell or container for a VXML voice application according to an embodiment of the present invention. A developer utilizing a client application known as a thin client analogous to CL 141 on station 140 described with reference to FIG. 1b, creates a voice application shell or voice application container. At step 201 the developer logs in to the system at a login page. At step 202 the developer creates a contact list of application consumers. Typically a greeting or welcome page would be displayed before step 202. An application consumer is an audience of one or more entities that would have access to and interact with a voice application. A contact list is first created so that all of the intended contacts are available during voice application creation if call routing logic is required later on. The contact list can either be entered individually in the event of more than one contact by the producer or may be imported as a set list from some organizer/planner software, such as Microsoft Outlook® or perhaps a PDA® organizer.
In one embodiment of the present invention the contact list may reside on an external device accessed by a provided connector (not shown) that is configured properly and adapted for the purpose of accessing and retrieving the list. This approach may be used, for example, if a large, existing customer database is used. Rather than create a copy, the needed data is extracted from the original and provided to the application.
At step 203, a voice application header is populated. A voice application header is simply a title field for the application. The field contains a name for the application and a description of the application. At step 204, the developer assigns either and inbound or outbound state for the voice application. An outbound application is delivered through an outbound call while the consumer accesses an inbound voice application.
In the case of the inbound application, in step 205 the system sets a default addressee for inbound communications. The developer selects a dialog from a configured list in step 206. It is assumed in this example that the dialogs have already been created. At step 207, the developer executes the dialog and it is deployed automatically.
In the case of an outbound designation in step 204, the developer chooses a launch type in step 208. A launch type can be either an on-demand type or a scheduled type. If the choice made by the developer in step 208 is scheduled, then in step 209, the developer enters all of the appropriate time and date parameters for the launch including parameters for recurring launches of the same application. In the case of an on demand selection for application launch in step 208, then in step 210 the developer selects one or more contacts from the contact list established in step 202. It is noted herein that step 210 is also undertaken by the developer after step 209 in the case of a scheduled launch. At step 207, the dialog is created. In this step a list of probable dialog responses for a voice application wherein interaction is intended may also be created and stored for use.
In general sequence, a developer creates a voice application and integrates the application with a backend data source or, optionally, any third party resources and deploys the voice application. The application consumer then consumes the voice application and optionally, the system analyzes any consumer feedback collected by the voice application for further interaction if appropriate. The steps of this example pertain to generating and launching a voice application from "building blocks" that are already in place.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating a simple voice application container 300 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Application container 300 is a logical container or "voice application object" 300. Also termed a shell, container 300 is logically illustrated as a possible result of the process of FIG. 2 above. Container 300 contains one or more dialog states illustrated herein as dialogs 301a-n labeled in this example as dialogs 1-4. Dialogs 301a-n are objects and therefore container 300 is a logical grouping of the set of dialog objects 301a-n.
The represented set of dialog objects 301a-n is interlinked by business rules labeled rules 1-4 in this example. Rules 1-4 are defined by the developer and are rule objects. It is noted herein that that there may be many more or fewer dialog objects 301a-n as well as interlinking business rule objects 1-4 comprising container object 300 without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. The inventor illustrates 4 of each entity and deems the representation sufficient for the purpose of explaining the present invention.
In addition to the represented objects, voice application shell 300 includes a plurality of settings options. In this example, basic settings options are tabled for reference and given the element number 305 a-c illustrating 3 listed settings options. Reading in the table from top to bottom, a first setting launch type (305a) defines an initial entry point for voice application 300 into the communications system. As described above with reference to FIG. 2 step 204, the choices for launch type 305a are inbound or outbound. In an alternative embodiment, a launch type may be defined by a third party and be defined in some other pattern than inbound or outbound.
Outbound launch designation binds a voice application to one or more addressees (consumers). The addressee may be a single contact or a group of contacts represented by the contact list or distribution list also described with reference to FIG. 2 above (step 202). When the outbound voice application is launched in this case, it is delivered to the addressee designated on a voice application outbound contact field (not shown). All addressees designated receive a copy of the outbound voice application and have equal opportunity to interact (if allowed) with the voice application dialog and the corresponding backend data resources if they are used in the particular application.
In the case of an inbound voice application designation for launch type 305a, the system instructs the application to assume a ready stand-by mode. The application is launched when the designated voice application consumer actively makes a request to access the voice application. A typical call center IVR system assumes this type of inbound application.
Launch time setting (305b) is only enabled as an option if the voice application launch type setting 305a is set to outbound. The launch time setting is set to instruct a novel scheduling engine, which may be assumed to be part of the application server function described with reference to FIG. 1B. The scheduling engine controls the parameter of when to deliver of when to deliver the voice application to the designated addressees. The time setting may reflect on-demand, scheduled launch, or any third-party-defined patterns.
On-demand gives the developer full control over the launch time of the voice application. The on-demand feature also allows any third-party system to issue a trigger event to launch the voice application. It is noted herein that in the case of third-party control the voice application interaction may transcend more than one communications system and or network.
Property setting 305c defines essentially how the voice application should behave in general. Possible state options for setting 305c are public, persistent, or sharable. A public state setting indicates that the voice application should be accessible to anyone within the voice portal domain so that all consumers with minimum privilege can access the application. A persistent state setting for property 305c ensures that only one copy of the voice application is ever active regardless of how many consumers are attempting to access the application. An example of such a scenario would be that of a task-allocation voice application. For example, in a task-allocation scenario there are only a number of time slots available for a user to access the application. If the task is a request from a pool of contacts such as perhaps customer-support technicians to lead a scheduled chat session, then whenever a time slot has been selected, the other technicians can only select the slots that are remaining. Therefore if there is only one copy of the voice application circulating within the pool of technicians, the application captures the technician's response on a first-come first-serve basis.
A sharable application state setting for property 305a enables the consumer to "see" the responses of other technicians in the dialog at issue, regardless of whether the voice application is persistent or not. Once the voice application shell is created, the producer can then create the first dialog of the voice application as described with reference to FIG. 2 step 207. It is reminded herein that shell 300 is modeled using a remote and preferably a desktop client that will be described in more detail later in this specification.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating a dialog object model 400 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Dialog object model 400 is analogous to any of dialog objects 301a-n described with reference to FIG. 3 above. Object 400 models a dialog and all of its properties. A properties object illustrated within dialog object 400 and labeled Object Properties (410) contains the dialog type and properties including behavior states and business rules that apply to the dialog.
For example, every dialog has a route-to property illustrated in the example as Route To property (411). Property 411 maps to and identifies the source of the dialog. Similarly, every dialog has a route-from property illustrated herein as Route From property (412). Route from property 412 maps to and identifies the recipient contact of the dialog or the dialog consumer.
Every dialog falls under a dialog type illustrated in this example by a property labeled Dialog Type and given the element number 413. Dialog type 413 may include but is not limited to the following types of dialogs: 1. Radio Dialog: A radio dialog allows a voice application consumer to interactively select one of available options from an option list after hearing the dialog description. 2. Bulletin Dialog: A bulletin dialog allows a voice application consumer to interact with a bulletin board-like forum where multiple consumers can share voice messages in an asynchronous manner. 3. Statement Dialog: A statement dialog plays out a statement to a voice application consumer without expecting any responses from the consumer. 4. Open Entry Dialog: An open entry dialog allows a voice application consumer to record a message of a pre-defined length after hearing the dialog description. 5. Third Party Dialog: A third party dialog is a modular container structure that allows the developer to create a custom-made dialog type with its own properties and behaviors. An example would be Nuance's SpeechObject®.
Each dialog type has one or more associated business rules tagged to it enabling determination of a next step in response to a perceived state. A rule compares the application consumer response with an operand defined by the application developer using an operational code such as less than, greater than, equal to, or not equal to. In a preferred embodiment of the invention the parameters surrounding a rule are as follows:
If user response is equal to the predefined value, then perform one of the following:
A. Do nothing and terminate the dialog state.
B. Do a live bridge transfer to the contact specified. Or,
C. Send another dialog to another contact.
In the case of an outbound voice application, there are likely to be exception-handling business rules associated with perceived states. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, exception handling rules are encapsulated into three different events: 1. An application consumer designated to receive the voice application rejects a request for interacting with the voice application. 2. An application consumer has a busy connection at the time of launch of the voice application, for example, a telephone busy signal. And, 3. An application consumer's connection is answered by or is redirected to a non-human device, for example, a telephone answering machine.
For each of the events above, any one of the three follow-up actions are possible according to perceived state:
1. Do nothing and terminate the dialog state.
2. Redial the number.
3. Send another dialog to another contact.
FIG. 5 is a process flow diagram illustrating steps for voice dialog creation for a VXML-enabled voice application according to an embodiment of the present invention. All dialogs can be reused for subsequent dialog routing. There is, as previously described, a set of business rules for every dialog and contact pair. A dialog be active and be able to transit from one dialog state to another only when it is rule enabled.
At step 501 a developer populates a dialog description field with a dialog description. A dialog description may also contain reference to XML tags as will be described further below. At step 502, parameters of the dialog type are entered based on the assigned type of dialog. Examples of the available parameters were described with reference to FIG. 4 above.
At step 503 the developer configures the applicable business rules for the dialog type covering, as well, follow up routines. In one embodiment rules configuration at step 503 resolves to step 505 for determining follow-up routines based on the applied rules. For example, the developer may select at step 505, one of three types of transfers. For example, the developer may configure for a live transfer as illustrated by step 506; transfer to a next dialog for creation as illustrated by step 507; or the developer may configure for dialog completion as illustrated by step 508.
If the developer does not branch off into configuring sub-routines 506, 507, or 508 from step 505, but rather continues from step 503 to step 504 wherein inbound or outbound designation for the dialog is system assigned, then the process must branch from step 504 to either step 508 or 509, depending on whether the dialog is inbound or outbound. If at step 504, the dialog is inbound, then at step 508 the dialog is completed. If the assignment at step 504 is outbound, then at step 509 to configure call exception business rules.
At step 510, the developer configures at least one follow-up action for system handling of exceptions. If no follow-up actions are required to be specified at step 510, then the process resolves to step 508 for dialog completion. If an action or actions are configured at step 510, then at step 511 the action or actions are executed such as a system re-dial, which the illustrated action for step 511.
In a preferred embodiment, once the voice application has been created, it can be deployed and accessed through the telephone. The method of access, of course, depends on the assignment configured at step 504. For example, if the application is inbound, the application consumer accesses a voice portal to access the application. As described further above, a voice portal is a voice interface for accessing a selected number of functions of the voice application server described with reference to FIG. 1B above. A voice portal may be a connection-oriented-switched-telephony (COST) enabled portal or a data-network-telephony (DNT) enabled portal. In the case of an outbound designation at step 504, the application consumer receives the voice application through an incoming call to the consumer originated from the voice application server. In a preferred embodiment, the outbound call can be either COST based or DNT based depending on the communications environment supported.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating a dialog transition flow after initial connection with a consumer according to an embodiment of the present invention. Some of the elements illustrated in this example were previously introduced with respect to the example of FIG. 1B above and therefore shall retain their original element numbers. In this example, an application consumer is logically illustrated as Application Consumer 600 that is actively engaged in interaction with a dialog 601 hosted by telephony server 130. Server 130 is, as previously described a VXML compliant telephony server as is so labeled.
Application server 110 is also actively engaged in the interaction sequence and has the capability to provide dynamic content to consumer 600. As application consumer 600 begins to interact with the voice application represented herein by dialog 600 within telephony server 130, voice application server 110 monitors the situation. In actual practice, each dialog processed and sent to server 130 for delivery to or access by consumer 600 is an atomic unit of the particular voice application being deployed and executed. Therefore dialog 601 may logically represent more than one single dialog.
In this example, assuming more than one dialog, dialog 601 is responsible during interaction for acquiring a response from consumer 600. Arrows labeled Send and Respond represent the described interaction. When consumer 600 responds to dialog content, the response is sent back along the same original path to VXML rendering engine 111, which interprets the response and forwards the interpreted version to a provided dialog controller 604. Controller 604 is part of application logic 112 in server 110 described with reference to FIG. 1B. Dialog controller 604 is a module that has the ability to perform table lookups, data retrieve and data write functions based on established rules and configured response parameters.
When dialog controller 604 receives a dialog response, it stores the response corresponding to the dialog at issue (601) to a provided data source 602 for data mining operations and workflow monitoring. Controller 604 then issues a request to a provided rules engine 603 to look-up the business rule or rules that correspond to the stored response. Once the correct business rule has been located for the response, the dialog controller starts interpretation. If the business rule accessed requires reference to a third-party data source (not shown), controller 604 makes the necessary data fetch from the source. Any data returned by controller 604 is integrated into the dialog context and passed onward VXML rendering engine 111 for dialog page generation of a next dialog 601. The process repeats until dialog 601 is terminates.
In one embodiment, the business rule accessed by controller 604 as a result of a received response from consumer 600 carries a dialog transition state other than back to the current application consumer. In this case controller 604 spawns an outbound call from application server 110 to deliver the next or "generated dialog" to the designated target application consumer. At the same time, the current consumer has his/her dialog state completed as described with reference to FIG. 5 step 508 according to predefined logic specified in the business rule.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that a dialog can contain dynamic content by enabling controller 604 to have access to data source 602 according to rules served by rule engine 603. In most embodiments there are generally two types of dynamic content. Both types are, in preferred embodiments, structured in the form of XML and are embedded directly into the next generated dialog page. The first of the 2 types of dynamic content is classified as non-recurring. Non-recurring content makes a relative reference to a non-recurring resource label in a resource adapter registry within a resource adapter analogous to adapter 113 of voice application server 110 described with reference to FIG. 1B.
In the above case, when dialog controller 604 interprets the dialog, it first scans for any resource label. If a match is found, it looks up the resource adapter registry and invokes the corresponding resource API to fetch the required data into the new dialog context. Once the raw data is returned from the third-party data source, it passes the raw data to a corresponding resource filter for further processing. When completed in terms of processing by the filter, the dialog resource label or tag is replaced with the filtered data and is integrated transparently into the new dialog.
The second type of dynamic content is recurring. Recurring content usually returns more than one set of a name and value pair. An example would be a list of stocks in an application consumer's stock portfolio. For example, a dialog that enables consumer 600 to parrot a specific stock and have the subsequent quote returned through another dialog state is made to use recurring dynamic content to achieve the desired result. Recurring content makes a relative reference to a recurring resource label in the resource adapter registry of voice application server 110. When controller 604 interprets the dialog, it handles the resource in an identical manner to handling of non-recurring content. However, instead of simply returning the filtered data back to the dialog context, it loops through the data list and configures each listed item as a grammar-enabled keyword. In so doing, consumer 600 can parrot one of the items (separate stocks) in the list played in the first dialog and have the response captured and processed for return in the next dialog state. The stock-quote example presented below illustrates possible dialog/response interactions from the viewpoint of consumer 600.
Voice Application: "Good morning Leo, what stock quote do you want?"
Application Consumer: "Oracle"
Voice Application: "Oracle is at seventeen dollars."
Voice Application: "Good morning Leo, what stock quote do you want?"
This particular example consists of two dialogs.
The first dialog plays out the statement "Good morning Leo, what stock quote do you want?" The dialog is followed by a waiting state that listens for keywords such as Oracle, Sun, Microsoft, etc. The statement consists of two dynamic non-recurring resource labels. The first one is the time in day: Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. The second dynamic content is the name of the application consumer. In this case, the name of the consumer is internal to the voice application server, thus the type of the resource label is SYSTEM. In the actual dialog description field, it may look something like this: <resource type=`ADAPTER` name=`time greeting`/> <resource type=`SYSTEM` name=`target_contact`/>, what stock quote do you want?
Because the dialog is expecting the consumer to say a stock out of his/her existing portfolio, the dialog type is radio dialog, and the expected response property of the radio dialog is
TABLE-US-00001 <resource type=`ADAPTER` name=`stock_list`> <param> <resource type=`SYSTEM` name=`target_contact_id`/> </param> </resource>
This XML resource label tells dialog controller 604 to look for a resource label named stock_list and to invoke the corresponding API with target_contact_id as the parameter. Upon completion of the data fetching, the list of stocks is integrated into the dialog as part of the grammars. And whatever the user responds to in terms of stock identification is matched against the grammars at issue (stocks in portfolio) and assigned the grammar return value to the dialog response, which can then forward it to the next dialog as resource of DIALOG type.
The producer can make reference to any dialog return values in any subsequent dialog by using <resource type=`DIALOG` name=`dialog name`/>. This rule enables the producer to play out the options the application consumer selected previously in any follow-up dialogs.
The second dialog illustrated above plays out the quote of the stock selected from the first dialog, then returns the flow back to the first dialog. Because no extra branching logic is involved in this dialog, the dialog type in this case is a statement dialog. The dialog's follow-up action is simply to forward the flow back to the first dialog. In such a case, the dialog statement is:
TABLE-US-00002 <resource type=`DIALOG` name=`select stock dialog`/> <resource type=`ADAPTER` name=`get_stock_quote`> <param> <resource type=`DIALOG` name=`select stock dialog`/> </param> </resource>
Besides making reference to ADAPTER, DIALOG and SYSTEM type, the dialog can also take in other resource types such as SOUND and SCRIPT. SOUND can be used to impersonate the dialog description by inserting a sound clip into the dialog description. For example, to play a sound after the stock quote, the producer inserts <resource type=`SOUND` name=`beep`/> right after the ADAPTER resource tag.
The producer can add a custom-made VXML script into the dialog description by using <resource type=`RESOURCE` name=`confirm`/> so that in the preferred embodiment, any VXML can be integrated into the dialog context transparently with maximum flexibility and expandability.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that while the example cited herein use VXML and XML as the mark-up languages and tags, it is noted herein that other suitable markup languages can be utilized in place of or integrated with the mentioned conventions without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It will also be apparent to the skilled artisan that while the initial description of the invention is made in terms of a voice application server having interface to a telephony server using generally HTTP requests and responses, it should be noted that the present invention can be practiced in any system that is capable of handling well-defined requests and responses across any distributed network.
FIGS. 7-15 illustrate various displayed Browser frames of a developer platform interface analogous to CL 141 of station 140 of FIG. 1B. Description of the following interface frames and frame contents assumes existence of a desktop computer host analogous to station 140 of FIG. 1B wherein interaction is enabled in HTTP request/response format as would be the case of developing over the Internet network for example. However, the following description should not limit the method and apparatus of the invention in any way as differing protocols, networks, interface designs and scope of operation can vary.
FIG. 7 is a plan view of a developer's frame containing a developer's login screen of 700 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Frame 700 is presented to a developer in the form of a Web browser container according to one embodiment of the invention. Commercial Web browsers are well known and any suitable Web browser will support the platform. Frame 700 has all of the traditional Web options associated with most Web browser frames including back, forward, Go, File, Edit, View, and so on. A navigation tool bar is visible in this example. Screen 710 is a login page. The developer may, in one embodiment, have a developer's account. In another case, more than one developer may share a single account. There are many possibilities.
Screen 710 has a field for inserting a login ID and a field for inserting a login personal identification number (PIN). Once login parameters are entered the developer submits the data by clicking on a button labeled Login. Screen 710 may be adapted for display on a desktop computer or any one of a number of other network capable devices following specified formats for display used on those particular devices.
FIG. 8 is a plan view of a developer's frame 800 containing a screen shot of a home page of the developer's platform interface of FIG. 7. Frame 800 contains a sectioned screen comprising a welcome section 801, a product identification section 802 and a navigation section 803 combined to fill the total screen or display area. A commercial name for a voice application developer's platform that is coined by the inventor is the name Fonelet. Navigation section 803 is provided to display on the "home page" and on subsequent frames of the software tool.
Navigation section 803 contains, reading from top to bottom, a plurality of useful links. Starting with a link to home followed by a link to an address book. A link for creating a new Fonelet (voice application) is labeled Create New. A link to "My" Fonelets is provided as well as a link to "Options". A standard Help link is illustrated along with a link to Logout. An additional "Options Menu" is the last illustrated link in section 803. Section 803 may have additional links that are visible by scrolling down with the provided scroll bar traditional to the type of display of this example.
FIG. 9 is a plan view of a developer's frame 900 containing a screen shot of an address book 911 accessible through interaction with the option Address in section 803 of the previous frame of FIG. 8. Screen 911 as an interactive option for listing individual contacts and for listing contact lists. A contact list is a list of voice application consumers and a single contact represents one consumer in this example. However, in other embodiments a single contact may mean more than one entity. Navigation screen 803 is displayed on the left of screen 911. In this example, contacts are listed by First Name followed by Last Name, followed by a telephone number and an e-mail address. Other contact parameters may also be included or excluded without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example the Web site of a contact may be listed and may also be the interface for receiving a voice application. To the left of the listed contacts are interactive selection boxes used for selection and configuration purposes. Interactive options are displayed in the form of Web buttons and adapted to enable a developer to add or delete contacts.
FIG. 10 is a plan view of a developer's frame 1000 displaying a screen 1001 for creating a new voice application. Screen 1001 initiates creation of a new voice application termed a Fonelet by the inventor. A name field 1002 is provided in screen 1001 for inputting a name for the application. A description field 1003 is provided for the purpose of entering the applications description. A property section 1004 is illustrated and adapted to enable a developer to select from available options listed as Public, Persistent, and Shareable by clicking on the appropriate check boxes.
A Dialog Flow Setup section is provided and contains a dialog type section field 1005 and a subsequent field for selecting a contact or contact group 1006. After the required information is correctly populated into the appropriate fields, a developer may "create" the dialog by clicking on an interactive option 1007 labeled Create.
FIG. 11 is a plan view of a developer's frame 1100 illustrating screen 1001 of FIG. 10 showing further options as a result of scrolling down. A calling schedule configuration section 1101 is illustrated and provides the interactive options of On Demand or Scheduled. As was previously described, selecting On Demand enables application deployment at the will of the developer while selecting scheduled initiates configuration for a scheduled deployment according to time/date parameters. A grouping of entry fields 1102 is provided for configuring Time Zone and Month of launch. A subsequent grouping of entry fields 1103 is provided for configuring the Day of Week and the Day of Month for the scheduled launch. A subsequent grouping of entry fields 1104 is provided for configuring the hour and minute of the scheduled launch. It is noted herein that the options enable a repetitive launch of the same application. Once the developer finishes specifying the voice application shell, he or she can click a Create Dialog button labeled Create to spawn an overlying browser window for dialog creation.
FIG. 12 is a screen shot of a dialog configuration window 1200 illustrating a dialog configuration page according to an embodiment of the invention. In this window a developer configures the first dialog that the voice application or Fonelet will link to. A dialog identification section 1201 is provided for the purpose of identifying and describing the dialog to be created. A text entry field for entering a dialog name and a text entry field for entering dialog description are provided. Within the dialog description field, an XML resource tag (not shown) is inserted which for example, may refer to a resource label machine code registered with a resource adapter within the application server analogous to adapter 113 and application server 110 described with reference to FIG. 1B.
A section 1202 is provided within screen 1200 and adapted to enable a developer to configure for expected responses. In this case the type of dialog is a Radio Dialog. Section 1202 serves as the business rule logic control for multiple choice-like dialogs. Section 1202 contains a selection option for Response of Yes or No. It is noted herein that there may be more and different expected responses in addition to a simple yes or no response.
An adjacent section is provided within section 1202 for configuring any Follow-Up Action to occur as the result of an actual response to the dialog. For example, an option of selecting No Action is provided for each expected response of Yes and No. In the case of a follow-up action, an option for Connect is provided for each expected response. Adjacent to each illustrated Connect option, a Select field is provided for selecting a follow-up action, which may include fetching data.
A Send option is provided for enabling Send of the selected follow-up action including any embedded data. A follow-up action may be any type of configured response such as send a new radio dialog, send a machine repair request, and so on. A send to option and an associated select option is provided for identifying a recipient of a follow-up action and enabling automated send of the action to the recipient. For example, if a first dialog is a request for machine repair service sent to a plurality of internal repair technicians, then a follow-up might be to send the same dialog to the next available contact in the event the first contact refused to accept the job or was not available at the time of deployment.
In the above case, the dialog may propagate from contact to contact down a list until one of the contacts is available and chooses to interact with the dialog by accepting the job. A follow-up in this case may be to send a new dialog to the accepting contact detailing the parameters of which machine to repair including the diagnostic data of the problem and when the repair should take place. In this example, an option for showing details is provide for developer review purposes. Also interactive options for creating new or additional responses and for deleting existing responses from the system are provided. It is noted herein that once a dialog and dialog responses are created then they are reusable over the whole of the voice application and in any specified sequence in a voice application.
A section 1203 is provided within screen 1201 and adapted for handling Route-To Connection Exceptions. This section enables a developer to configure what to de in case of possible connection states experience in application deployment. For example, for a Caller Reject, Line Busy, or connection to Voice Mail there are options for No Action and for Redial illustrated. It is noted herein that there may be more Exceptions as well as Follow-up action types than are illustrated in this example without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
A Send option is provided for each type of exception for re-sending the same or any other dialog that may be selected from an adjacent drop down menu. For example if the first dialog is a request for repair services and all of the initial contacts are busy for example, the dialog may be sent back around to all of the contacts until one becomes available by first moving to a next contact for send after each busy signal and then beginning at the top of the list again on re-dial. In this case John Doe represents a next recipient after a precious contact rejects the dialog, is bust, or re-directs to voice mail because of unavailability. Section 1203 is only enabled when the voice application is set to outbound. Once the first dialog is created and enabled by the developer then a second dialog may be created if desired by clicking on one of the available buttons labeled detail. Also provided are interactive buttons for Save Dialog, Save and Close, and Undo Changes.
FIG. 13 is a screen shot 1300 of dialog design panel 1200 of FIG. 12 illustrating progression of dialog state to a subsequent contact. The dialog state configured in the example of FIG. 12 is now transmitted from a contact listed in Route From to a contact listed in Route To in section 1301, which is analogous to section 1201 of FIG. 12. In this case, the contacts involved are John Doe and Jane Doe. In this case, the dialog name and description are the same because the dialog is being re-used. The developer does not have to re-enter any of the dialog context. However, because each dialog has a unique relationship with a recipient the developer must configure the corresponding business rules.
Sections 1302 and 1303 of this example are analogous to sections 1202 and 1203 of the previous example of FIG. 12. In this case if John Doe says no to the request for machine repair then the system carries out a bridge transfer to Jane Doe. In the case of exceptions, shown in Route-To Connection Exceptions region 1303, all the events are directed to a redialing routine. In addition to inserting keywords such as "Yes" or "No" in the response field 1302, the developer can create a custom thesaurus by clicking on a provided thesaurus icon not shown in this example. All the created vocabulary in a thesaurus can later be re-used throughout any voice applications the developer creates.
FIG. 14 is a screen shot of a thesaurus configuration window 1400 activated from the example of FIG. 13 according to a preferred embodiment. Thesaurus window 1400 has a section 1401 containing a field for labeling a vocabulary word and an associated field for listing synonyms for the labeled word. In this example, the word no is associated with probable responses no, nope, and the phrase "I can not make it". In this way voice recognition regimens can be trained in a personalized fashion to accommodate for varieties in a response that might carry a same meaning
A vocabulary section 1402 is provided and adapted to list all of the created vocabulary words for a voice application and a selection mechanism (a selection bar in this case) for selecting one of the listed words. An option for creating a new word and synonym pair is also provided within section 1402. A control panel section 1403 is provided within window 1400 and adapted with the controls Select From Thesaurus; Update Thesaurus; Delete From Thesaurus; and Exit Thesaurus.
FIG. 15 is a plan view of a developer's frame 1500 illustrating a screen 1502 for managing created modules according to an embodiment of the present invention.
After closing all dialog windows frame 1500 displays screen or page 1502 for module management options. Menu section 803 is again visible. Screen 1502 displays as a result of clicking on the option "My" or My Fonelet in frame 803. Screen 1502 lists all voice applications that are already created and usable. In the list, each voice application has a check box adjacent thereto, which can be selected to change state of the particular application. A column labeled Status is provided within screen 1502 and located adjacent to the application list applications already created.
The Status column lists the changeable state of each voice application. Available status options include but are not limited to listed states of Inactive, Activated and Inbound. A column labeled Direct Access ID is provided adjacent to the Status column and is adapted to enable the developer to access a voice application directly through a voice interface in a PSTN network or in one embodiment from a DNT voice interface. In a PSTN embodiment, direct access ID capability serves as an extension of a central phone number. A next column labeled Action is provided adjacent to the direct access ID column and is adapted to enable a developer to select and apply a specific action regarding state of a voice application.
For example, assume that a developer has just finished the voice application identified as Field Support Center (FSC) listed at the top of the application identification list. Currently, the listed state of FSC is Inactive. The developer now activates the associated Action drop down menu and selects Activate to launch the application FSC on demand. In the case of a scheduled launch, the voice application is activated automatically according to the settings defined in the voice application shell.
As soon as the Activate command has been issued, the on-demand request is queued for dispatching through the system's outbound application server. For example, John Doe then receives a call originating from the voice application server (110) that asks if John wants to take the call. If John responds "Yes," the voice application is executed. The actual call flow follows:
System: "Hello John, you received a fonelet from Jim Doe, would you like to take this call?"
System: "Machine number 008 is broken, are you available to fix it?"
System: "Thanks for using fonelet. Goodbye!" System: Terminate the connection with John, record the call flow to the data source, and spawn a new call to Jane Doe.
System: "Hello Jane, you received a fonelet from Jim Doe, would you like to take this call?"
System: "Machine number 008 is broken, are you available to fix it?"
Jane: "I cannot make it."
System: "Please wait while fonelet transfers you to Jeff Doe." System: Carry out the bridge transfer between Jane Doe and Jeff Doe. When the conversation is completed, terminate the connection with Jeff and record the call flow to the data source.
The default textual content of the voice application is being generated by the text-to-speech engine hosted on the telephony or DNT server. However, the voice application producer can access the voice portal through the PSTN or DNT server and record his/her voice over any existing prompts in the voice application.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art the method and apparatus of the present invention may be practiced in conjunction with a CTI-enabled telephony environment wherein developer access to for application development is enabled through a client application running on a computerized station connected to a data network also having connectivity to the server spawning the application and telephony components. The method and apparatus of the invention may also be practiced in a system that is DNT-based wherein the telephony server and application server are both connected to a data network such as the well-known Internet network. There are applications for all mixes of communications environments including any suitable multi-tier system enabled for VXML and or other applicable mark-up languages that may serve similar purpose.
It will also be apparent to one with skill in the art that modeling voice applications including individual dialogs and responses enables any developer to create a limitless variety of voice application quickly by reusing existing objects in modular fashion thereby enabling a wide range of useful applications from an existing store of objects.
Auto-Harvesting Web Data
In one embodiment of the present invention one or more Websites can be automatically harvested for data to be rendered by a VXML engine for generating a voice response accessible by users operating through a PSTN-based portal. Such an enhancement is described immediately below.
FIG. 16 is a block diagram illustrating the dialog transition flow of FIG. 6 enhanced for Web harvesting according to an embodiment of the present invention. Dialog controller 604 is enhanced in this embodiment to access and harvest data from an HTML, WML, or other data source such as would be the case of data hosted on a Website. An example scenario for this embodiment is that of a banking institution allowing all of its customers to access their Web site through a voice portal.
A Website 1600 is illustrated in this embodiment and is accessible to dialog controller 604 via a network access line 1601 illustrated herein as two directional lines of communication. The first line is labeled Store/Fetch/Input leading from controller 604 into site 1600. The second (return) line is labeled Data Return/Source Field. The separately illustrated communication lines are intended to be analogous to a bi-directional Internet or other network access line. An internal data source (602) previously described with reference to FIG. 6 above is replaced in FIG. 16 by Website 1600 for explanatory purpose only. It should be noted that multiple data sources both internal to server 110 and external from server 110 could be simultaneously accessible to dialog controller 604.
Website 1600 provides at least one electronic information page (Web page) that is formatted according to the existing rules for the mark-up language that is used for its creation and maintenance. Site 1600 may be one site hosting many information pages, some of which are inter-related and accessible through subsequent navigation actions. Controller 604 in this embodiment is enhanced for Website navigation at the direction of a user's voice inputs enabled by rule accessible by accessing rule engine 603. A data template (not shown) is provided for use by dialog controller 604 to facilitate logical data population from site 1600. Dialog controller 604 analyzes both Website source codes and data fields as return data and uses the information to generate a VXML page for rendering engine 111.
It is noted herein that all of the security and access mechanisms used at the site for normal Internet access are inferred upon the customer so that the customer may be granted access by providing a voice rendering (response) containing the security access information. This enables the customer to keep the same security password and/or personal identification number (PIN) for voice transactions through a portal as well as for normal Web access to site 1600 from a network-connected computer.
FIG. 17 is a block diagram of the voice application distribution environment of FIG. 1B illustrating added components for automated Web harvesting and data rendering according to an embodiment of the present invention. In this example, workstation 140 running client software 141 has direct access to a network server 1701 hosting the target Website 1600. Access is provided by way of an Internet access line 1704.
It is noted herein that there may be many servers 1701 as well as many hosted Websites of one or more pages in this embodiment without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. A database store 1702 is provided in this example and illustrated as connected to server 1701 for the purpose of storing data. Data store 1702 may be an optical storage, magnetic storage, a hard disk, or other forms suitable for storing data accessible online. In one embodiment, data store 1702 is a relational database management system (RDBMS) wherein a single access may involve one or more connected sub servers also storing data for access.
The configuration of client application 141, workstation 140, server 1702, Website 1600, and database 1702 connected by network 1704 enables Websites analogous to site 1600 to be culled or harvested. Application 141 can read and retrieve all of the default responses that exist for each HTML script or scripts of another mark-up language. These default responses are embedded into application logic 112 and VXML rendering engine 111. Once the content of a Web page has been culled and used in client 141 to create the rendering, then VXML engine 111 can access the Website successfully in combination with application logic 112 and database/resource adaptor 113 by way of a separate access network 1703. For example, if a user (not shown) accesses Website 1600 through voice portal 143 from receiving device 135 (telephone), then he or she would be voice prompted for a password to gain access to the site. Subsequently, a voice rendering of the data on the site accessed would be recited to him or her over telephone 135.
Generally speaking, the development process for a voice portal would be the same as was described above with references to FIGS. 9-15 above. Some additional scripting or input of dialog is performed using client application 141. Rather that requiring that the application developer populate all of the fields from scratch, or re-apply previously entered options, fields used by the business logic as discussed earlier in FIGS. 9 through 15 may be created from information harvested from site 1600 in this case. For that purpose, a software adapter (not shown) is added to client software 141 that allows it to communicate with Web site 1600 and harvest the information, both from the source code comprising fields and labels, etc. as well as from data parameters and data variables.
It is noted herein that the process for data access, retrieval and voice rendering is essentially the same with respect to the processes of FIGS. 2-5 above except that a Website connection would be established before any other options are selected.
In one embodiment, provision of connection 1703 between server 110 and server 1701 enables the security environment practiced between communicating machines such a secure socket layer (SSL), firewall, etc to be applied in the created voice solution for a customer. On the analog side, the security is no different than that of a call-in line allowing banking services in terms of wiretap possibilities etc.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that the method and apparatus of the invention can be practiced in conjunction with the Internet, an Ethernet, or any other suitable networks. Markup languages supported include HTML, SHTML, WML, VHTML, XML, and so on. In one embodiment, the Websites accessed may be accessed automatically wherein the password information for a user is kept at the site itself. There are many possible scenarios.
Prioritizing Web Data for Voice Rendering
According to one aspect of the present invention a method is provided for selecting and prioritizing which Web data offerings from a harvested Web site will be filled into a template for a voice application.
FIG. 18 is a block diagram illustrating a simple hierarchical structure tree of a Web site 1801 and a harvested version of the site 1810. Screen 1801 illustrates a simple Web site structure tree as might be viewed from a user interface. Selectable icons representing data elements are represented herein as solid lines 1802a through 1802n suggesting that there may be any number of icons provided within any exemplary Web site. For the purpose of this specification, icons 1802a-1802n represent selectable icons, logos, hyperlinks and so on. Classifications of each object 1802a-1802n are illustrated herein as text labels 1803a through 1803n. For example, a selectable icon 1802a is one for navigating to the "home page" of the site as revealed by adjacent classification 1803a. A subsequent icon (1802b) is a login page of the site as revealed by the classification login. In some cases, icons and classifications or labels may be one in the same (visibly not different).
In this example, the hierarchical structure presents a login block, which the user must successfully navigate before other options are presented. The presented options Accounts, Status, History, Look-up, Trade, and Quotes are arranged in a hierarchical structure. For example one must access Accounts first before options for Status (Accounts/Status) or History (Accounts/Status/History) are available to the user. This standard structure may be inconvenient and uneconomical for template filling for the purpose of creating a voice application template for dialog navigation. One reason is that the voice application will be created with an attempt to use all of the data of the Web site, which likely will include graphics, charts and the like that would not be understood by an accessing user if the description is simply translated and recited as a voice dialog over the telephone. Another reason is that the generic hierarchy of Web site structure 1801 may not be of a desired hierarchy for rendering as voice dialog in a request/response format. Typically then, certain data will be valuable, certain data will not be valuable, and the order data is presented at the dialog level will be important to the user as well as to the administrator (service provider).
Screen 1810 represents the same structure of screen 1801 that has been completely harvested wherein all of the icons and elements identified in source code of the site have been obtained for possible template filling. It is noted that the template enables a voice application to operate in the goal of obtaining and rendering updated data according to the constraints established by an administrator. Web site 1810 is pre-prepared for template filling. Icons are labeled 1812a through 1812n and classifications are labeled 1813a through 1813n.
Object 1810 is generated to emulate the generic structure of the Web site including graphics, charts, dialog boxes, text links, data fields, and any other offered feature that is present and enabled in the HTML or other language of the site. Because of the mitigating factors involved with a potentially large number of users accessing a voice portal to receive dialog, much streamlining is desired for user convenience as well as network load stabilization. Therefore, an intermediate step for object modeling elements and reorganizing the tree hierarchy is needed so that a voice application template can be filled according to a desired selection and hierarchy thus facilitating a more economic, optimized construction and execution of a resulting voice application.
The object modeling tools of the invention can be provided as part of client application 141 described with reference to FIG. 1B above. Created objects organized by hierarchy and desired content can be stored in application server 110 described with reference to FIG. 6 above or in a local database accessible to voice application server 110.
FIG. 19 is a block diagram illustrating the Web site structure 1801 of FIG. 18 and a Web site object created and edited for template creation. Screen 1801 is analogous to screen 1801 of FIG. 18 both in element and description thereof; therefore none of the elements or description of the elements illustrated with respect to structure 1801 of FIG. 18 shall be reintroduced.
Screen 1910 represents a harvested Web site that started out with structure 1801, but has since been reorganized with element prioritization for the purpose of populating a voice application template in an optimized fashion. It can be seen in this example, that significant editing has been performed to alter the original content and structure of the harvested Web site. Icons 1912a through 1912n illustrated the icons that have been retained after harvesting. 1913a through 1913n represent the classifications of those objects. Firstly, an optimization is noted with respect to icons labeled Home and Login in structure 1801. These items in harvested object 1910 have been optimized through combination into one specified object labeled login and given the element number 1913a. In this case Account Status and History is streamlined to Balance the most valuable piece and the most commonly requested information. Also in this case any charts, graphs or other visuals that may not be understood if rendered as a voice dialog are simply eliminated from the voice application template. The intermediate step for organization before template filling would be inserted in between steps of harvesting the Web site data and populating the voice application header.
After successful login, wherein the user inputs a voice version of the PIN/User Name/Password combination and is granted access to the voice application from a voice portal, the next priority in this example is to enable the user to quickly determine his or her account balance or balances. Element numbers 1912b and 1912c represent 2 balances assuming 2 accounts. There may be more or fewer prioritized icons without departing from the scope of the invention. In this case, the first "voice option" provided through the optimization process is to have account balances recited by telephone to the participating user. The other present and offered options of Look-up, Trade, and Quote, illustrated herein by element numbers 1913 c through f are moved into a higher but same level of architecture or structure meaning that they are afforded the same level of importance. All three of these options are related in that a user request or response containing stock symbol information can be used to initiate any of the actions.
FIG. 20 is a process flow diagram illustrating added steps for practicing the invention. At step 2000, an administrator operating client application 141 described with reference to FIG. 17 above harvests the Web-site for source data and data structure. At step 2001, the administrator creates an editable object representing the existing structure hierarchy of the target Web site. The object tree has the icons and associated properties and is executable when complete. In one embodiment, many of the standard icons and properties shared by many Web sites are provided for the administrator so that simple drag and drop operations can be used to create the tree. If a developer has to create a specific object from scratch, the source mark-up language can be used to construct the object from object building blocks representing object components. The new objects can then be saved to storage and re-used.
In one embodiment, rendering the source description as instruction to a modeling engine automatically creates the object tree. In this case, the harvested object is presented to the administrator as harvested and "ready to edit" wherein steps 2000 and 2001 are largely if not completely transparent to the administrator. In another embodiment, the administrator simply drags and drops icons using a mouse provided with the workstation employed to do the modeling.
At step 2002, the administrator may edit some objects to make them fit the constraints of VXML voice rendering more completely. In the same step he or she may delete certain objects from the tree altogether. Still further in the same step the administrator may move and group objects according to priority of rendering. If a Web site contains a login requirement it will, of course, be the highest priority or the first executable dialog of the resulting voice application. Complicated logins may be simplified. Moreover one or more objects can be combined to be rendered in a same dialog. There are many possibilities.
In still another embodiment, an object tree may be flattened to one level or an object tree may be expanded to contain more levels. The administrator may also insert content (rendered to dialog) that was not originally available from the Web site. The new content may be placed anywhere in the object tree and will subsequently take its place of priority in the resulting dialogs of the voice application. Once the voice application is complete, the initiation and execution of the application lends to data access and retrieval of any new data at the site. A standard navigation template is used to access the site and data is retrieved only according to class of data identified in the object tree. In this way unwanted data is not repeatedly accessed multiple times from a same Web site.
In step 2003, the voice application template is populated as described above. At step 2004, the administrator can begin to parameterize the voice application execution including establishment of all of the CTI contact parameters. At step 2005, the administrator can create dialog.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that pre-organizing Web harvested content for voice rendering is an extremely useful step for reducing complexity, reducing network and processor load, and for providing only pertinent and useful voice renderings to users accessing or contacted in the sense of outbound dialing from a connected voice portal system.
FIG. 21 is a block diagram illustrating a secure connectivity between a Voice Portal and a Web server according to an embodiment of the invention.
The connection scheme illustrated in this example connects a user (not shown) accessing a voice portal 2106 wherein portal 2106 has network access to Web-based data illustrated herein within Internet 2108, more particularly from a Web server 2109 connected to a database 2110.
Voice portal 2106 comprises a voice application server (VAS) 2103 connected to an XML gateway 2104 by way of a data link 2105. In this embodiment, data hosted by server 2109 is culled there from and delivered to XML gateway 2104 by way of line 2107. Application server 2103 then generates voice applications and distributes them to users having telephone connection to PSTN 2101. Telephony switches, service control points, routers and CTI-enabled equipment known to telephony networks may be assumed present within PSTN 2101. Similarly, routers servers and other nodes known in the Internet may be assumed present in Internet 2108. The inventor deems the illustrated equipment sufficient for the purpose of explanation of the invention.
Typically, a voice access to voice portal 2103 from anyone within PSTN 2101 may be assumed to be unprotected whether it is an inbound or an outbound call. That is to say that anyone with a telephone line tapping capability can listen in on voice transactions conducted between users phones and the voice application server. Typically, prior art conventions with phone transactions such as IVR entry of social security and PIN identification is sufficient to access account information. However, anyone else with the same information can also access the user's automated account lines to find out balance information and so on.
Server 2109 may be protected with Web certificate service wherein a user (on-line) accessing any data from server 2109 must send proof of acceptance and signature of the online authentication certificate. These regimens are provided as options in a user's Browser application.
One way to extend security to the point of XML gateway 2104 is through a completely private data network. A less expensive option is a VPN network as is illustrated in this example. Another way is through SSL measures such as HTTPS. Any of these methods may be used to extend the security regimens of server 2109 to Voice portal 2106. In this embodiment, gateway 2104 is adapted to operate according to the prevailing security measures. For example, if a user goes online to server 2109 changes his or her password information and signs a Web authentication certificate, the same change information would be recorded at the voice portal.
The only security lapse then is between a user in the PSTN and portal 2106. Information sent as voice to any user and response voice sent from any user can be obtained by tapping into line 2102. One possible solution to protect privacy to some extent would be to use a voice translation mechanism at the voice portal and at the user telephone. In this way, the voice leaving the portal can be translated to an obscure language or even code. At the user end, the device (not shown) translates back to the prevailing language and plays on a delay over the telephone speaker system.
One with skill in the art will recognize that an additional advantage of using the existing security, VPN, SSL, etc. is that the security system has already been tested, and is being constantly improved. One with skill in the art will also recognize that many variations can be provided without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example outsource WEB hosting may be used. Multi site WEB systems can be used for redundancy. Outsourced Voice services or multi service/location voice services may also apply.
Vocabulary Management for Recognition Options
According to yet another aspect of the invention, the inventor provides a vocabulary management system and method that enhances optimization of voice recognition software. The method and apparatus is described in the enabling disclosure below.
FIG. 22 is a block diagram illustrating the architecture of FIG. 1B enhanced with a vocabulary management server 2200 and software 2201 according to an embodiment of the present invention.
The system architecture of this embodiment is largely analogous to the architecture discussed with reference to FIG. 1B above. Therefore, elements present in both examples FIG. 1B and FIG. 22 shall not be reintroduced unless modified to practice the present invention.
Vocabulary management server 2200 is adapted with an instance of vocabulary management software (VMS) 2201 for the purpose of tailoring voice recognition template options to just the required vocabulary to fully enable the instant voice application.
Server 2200 may be presumed to have a data storage facility connected thereto or held internally therein adapted for the purpose of warehousing and organizing data. With regard to harvesting Web data and using the harvested Web data as source data for voice dialog as described further above with reference to the example of FIG. 17, the Web-based components are represented in this embodiment by Internet access lines, one connected from workstation 140 giving it Web access and another connecting voice application server 110 giving it access through database/resource adapter 113. In this way, Web-access to any targeted Web-based data for auto harvesting, interpretation, and translation to voice dialog is assumed.
Server 2200 can be accessed from workstation 140 running client application 141 through voice application server 2202 or more particularly through database resource adapter 113 over a data link 2203. In this way, an administrator can set-up and manipulate vocabulary options attributed to specific on-line or off-line (internal) data sources.
VMS software 2201 is adapted to enable separate and segregated sets of vocabulary specific to certain target data accessed and function allowed in conjunction with the target data. In one embodiment, additional subsets of vocabulary of a same target data source can be provided that are further tailored to specific clients who access the data through interaction from portal 143 over PSTN 134. Rule sets specific to the created vocabulary sets are created and tagged to the specific vocabulary sets and provided to application logic 112.
VXML compliant telephony server 130 has a text-to-speech and a speech-to-text capable engine 2205 provided therein as an enhanced engine replacing engine 132 described with reference to FIG. 1B. In one embodiment the separate functions may be enabled by separate components. The inventor illustrates a single engine with dual capabilities for illustrative purpose only. Engine 2205 has access to vocabulary management server 2200 through a data link 2202.
Server 2200 is accessible from application logic 112 of voice application server 110 by way of a data link 2204 and from database resource adapter 113 by way of a data link 2203. In one embodiment, a single data link is sufficient to enable communication between the just-mentioned components in voice application server 100 and server 2200.
In practice of the invention, assuming a Web-based data source is accessed, the voice recognition operates in a different way from previously described embodiments. For example, assume a client is accessing voice portal 143 in PSTN 134 from telephone 135 to interact with his or her personal investment Web page that contains option for account balance rendering and for stock trading. A specific vocabulary for the target Web site is available in server 2200 managed by VMS 2201. Perhaps a sub-set of the vocabulary particular to the client also exists and is organized under the parent vocabulary set.
Telephony server 130 recognizes the accessing user and an existing voice application is triggered. Voice application server 2202 connects to the Web site on behalf of the user through database resource adapter 113 and the Internet access line. Following the constraints of the voice application template, the database resource adapter provides the user login and password information after the user communicates these in the first or opening dialog and then gets the account data and any other updated data that the user is entitled to. The first dialog response rendered to the user from the voice application may contain only the stock values pertinent to the user account and the existing monetary balances associated with the specific symbols. While there may be more information available to the user, some of the available information may not be pertinent to or useful to the user. Therefore, before each dialog rendering, VMS 2201 provides the appropriate vocabulary and rule set for the particular dialog function, in some cases particular as well to the accessing user. Therefore, voice recognition software is not required to search a large vocabulary to intemperate the rendered VXML page. In this case, the VXML page itself is limited by the vocabulary management function before it is delivered to telephony server 130.
In another embodiment, intervention from VMS 2201 may occur after the standard VXML page is rendered but before voice recognition begins in server 130. In this case, engine 2205 consults server 2200 to obtain the appropriate vocabulary constraints. In this example data not recognized from VXML is simply dumped. There are many differing points along the dialog process where VMS 2201 may be employed to streamline the voice recognition function. For example, in the first dialog response described further above, the user may be prompted to initiate any desired trading activity. If the user elects to do some trading then the speech to text portion of engine 2205 may consult VMS 2201 for a limited trading vocabulary that is tailored to that client. Such a vocabulary may be expanded for a different client that is, for example, a VIP and has, perhaps more allowable options. Voice renderings from the client that do not match the provided vocabulary and/or do not conform to the rules are ignored.
In addition to personalizing and streamlining vocabulary options for voice recognition, an administrator can use VMS to create new vocabulary and/or to create a plurality of synonyms that are recognized as a same vocabulary word. For example, an administrator may configure stock, share, and security as synonyms to describe paper. Sell, short, and dump may all be understood as synonyms for selling paper. There are many variant possibilities. In general, VMS 2201 can be applied in one communication direction (from service to user) as a management tool for limiting data on a VXML page for rendering, or for limiting voice recognition of the VXML page and dumping the unrecognized portion. VMS 2201 can be applied in dialog steps in the opposite direction (from user to service) to tailor voice recognition options allowed for a user or a user group according to service policy and constraint.
In an embodiment where VMS 2201 works only with the VXML stream, it may be located within application server 110 or within telephony server 130. It is conceivable that different dialogs (both initial and response dialogs) of a same voice application for a same client accessing a single data source can be constrained using different vocabulary sets using VMS 2201. Therefore the optimum level of management capability is at the level of action/response. By limiting the work of voice recognition processing at every available step during interaction, much processing power and bandwidth can be reserved for other uses.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that the method and apparatus of the invention can be applied to access of both internal data sources as well as external data sources wherein some of the external data sources are network-based data sources analogous to Web-hosted data and data available over other types of digital data networks.
The method and apparatus of the invention should be afforded to broadest interpretation under examination in view of the many possible embodiments and uses. The spirit and scope of the invention is limited only be the claims that follow.
Patent applications by Leo Chiu, Daly City, CA US
Patent applications by Michael S. Yuen, San Francisco, CA US
Patent applications by Apptera, Inc.
Patent applications in class Image to speech
Patent applications in all subclasses Image to speech