Target, Schwarz Gruppe, Wegmans, Microsoft, Veritone and Deutsche Telekom lead standards effort to advance voice assistance
SAN FRANCISCO, June 22, 2021 – The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced the Open Voice Network, an open source association dedicated to advancing open standards that support the adoption of AI-enabled voice assistance systems. Founding members include Target, Schwarz Gruppe, Wegmans Food Markets, Microsoft, Veritone, and Deutsche Telekom.
Organizations are beginning to develop, design and manage their own voice assistant systems that are independent of today’s general-purpose voice platforms. This transition is being driven by the desire to manage the entirety of the user experience – from the sound of the voice, the sonic branding and the content – to integrating voice assistance into multiple business processes and brand environments from the call center, to the branch office and the store. Perhaps most importantly, organizations know they must protect the consumer and the proprietary data that flows through voice. The Open Voice Network will support this evolution by delivering standards and usage guidelines for voice assistant systems that are trustworthy, inclusive and open.
“At Target, we’re continuously exploring and embracing new technologies that can help provide joyful, easy and convenient experiences for our guests. We look forward to working with the Open Voice Network community to create global standards and share best practices that will enable businesses to accelerate innovation in this space and better serve consumers,” said Joel Crabb, Vice President, Architecture, Target Corporation. “The Linux Foundation, with its role in advancing open source for all, is the perfect home for this initiative.”
Voice is expected to be a primary digital interface going forward and will result in a hybrid ecosystem of general-purpose platforms and independent voice assistants that demand interoperability between conversational agents of different platforms and voice assistants. Open Voice Network is dedicated to supporting this transformation with industry guidance on the voice-specific protection of user privacy and data security.
“Voice is expected to be a primary interface to the digital world, connecting users to billions of sites, smart environments and AI bots. It is already increasingly being used beyond smart speakers to include applications in automobiles, smartphones and home electronics devices of all types. Key to enabling enterprise adoption of these capabilities and consumer comfort and familiarity is the implementation of open standards,” said Mike Dolan, senior vice president and general manager of Projects at the Linux Foundation. “The potential impact of voice on industries including commerce, transportation, healthcare and entertainment is staggering and we’re excited to bring it under the open governance model of the Linux foundation to grow the community and pave a way forward.”
“To speak is human, and voice is rapidly becoming the primary interaction modality between users and their devices and services at home and work. The more devices and services can interact openly and safely with one another, the more value we unlock for consumers and businesses across a wide spectrum of use cases, such as Conversational AI for customer service and commerce,” said Ali Dalloul, General Manager, Microsoft Azure AI, Strategy & Commercialization.
Much as open standards in the earliest days of the Internet brought a uniform way to exchange information and connect with any site anywhere, the Open Voice Network will bring the same standardized ease of development and use to voice assistant systems and conversational agents, leading to huge growth and value for businesses and consumers alike. Voice assistance depends upon technologies like Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Advanced Dialog Management (ADM) and Machine Learning (ML). The Open Voice Network will initially be focused on the following areas:
● Standards development: research and recommendations toward the global standards that will enable user choice, inclusivity, and trust.
● Industry value and awareness: identification and sharing of conversational AI best practices that are both horizontal and specific to vertical industries, serving as the source of insight and value for voice assistance.
● Advocacy: working with and through existing industry associations on relevant regulatory and legislative issues, including those of data privacy.
“Voice is transforming the relationships between brands and consumers,” said Rolf Schumann, Chief Digital Officer, Schwarz Gruppe. “Voice is changing the way we are interacting with our digital devices. For instance, when shopping through our smart home appliances. However, voice includes more information than a fingerprint and can entail data about the emotional state or mental health of a user. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to put data protection standards in place to protect the user’s privacy. This is the only way we will contribute to the future of voice.”
“Self-regulation of synthetic voice content creation and use, to protect the voice owner as well as establishing trust with the consumer is foundational,” said Ryan Steelberg, president and cofounder of Veritone. “Having an open network through Open Voice Network for education and global standards is the only way to keep pace with the rate of innovation and demand for influencer marketing. Veritone’s MARVEL.ai, a Voice as a Service solution, is proud to partner with Open Voice Network on building the best practices to protect the voice brands we work with across sports, media and entertainment.”
Membership to the Open Voice Network includes a commitment of resources in support of the its research, awareness and advocacy activities and active participation in the its symposia and workshops. The Linux Foundation open governance model will allow for community-wide contributions that will accelerate conversational AI standards rollout and adoption.
For more information, please visit: https://openvoicenetwork.org/
About the Linux Foundation
Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more. The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information, please visit us at linuxfoundation.org.
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