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Talking to the Cloud, and the Cloud Talking Back

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Jason Goecke

One of the great things about Tropo is that it has a speech recognition and text to speech engine built right in. This allows a user to speak commands to your voice application and respond to them with dynamically generated content. We make every effort to make these features robust and yet simple to use for developers.

In the first case, we will ask the user to provide their zipcode and then play it back to them:

  options = { 'choices'     => '[5 DIGITS]',
              'repeat'      => 3,
              'onBadChoice' => lambda { say 'That is not a zip code, please try again.'} }
  choice = ask 'Please enter your zip code.', options

  # Add spaces to speak back individual digits, rather than one number
  zipcode =
  choice.value.split(//).each { |char| zipcode << char + ' ' }
  say "Your zip code is #{zipcode}. Goodbye."

The key to this is the option ‘choices’, which is where we may pass our simple grammar to prompt the user. In this case we are asking the speech recognition engine to ask for up to [5 DIGITS] and the user may then either use their phone’s touch tone keypad or speak their response. We then take that response, which comes back as a string, and add spaces in between the numbers so that it is spoken back as you would a zipcode as opposed to a single number.

Now that is for digits, of course one may always use their telephone to enter digits you say. Now lets look at asking our customer questions:

  options = { 'choices'     => 'cheese, pepperoni, vegetarian',
              'repeat'      => 3,
              'onChoice'    => lambda { |choice| say "We will send you a #{choice.value}
                                                      pizza. Goodbye." },

              'onBadChoice' => lambda { say 'We do not have that kind of pizza,
                                             please try again.'} }
  choice = ask 'Which pizza would you like to order?', options

In this case we are passing the ‘choices’ option a string that provides multiple spoken choices that the user may speak to have a valid response. We are then playing that response back to the user when we recognize it as the value is populated in ‘choices.value’.

That was for simple multiple choice, what if more than one phrase may qualify for a single response?:

  options = { 'choices'     => 'denver broncos(broncos, denver, denver broncos),
                                dallas cowboys(cowboys, dallas, dallas cowboys)',
              'repeat'      => 3,
              'onChoice'    => lambda { |choice| say "A so you like the #{choice.value}
                                                      do you?. Goodbye." },
              'onBadChoice' => lambda { say 'We do not have that team, please try again.'} }
  choice = ask 'Who is your favorite football team?', options

First off, I am not making any statements about NFL teams here, just shortening the choices for the purposes of brevity.  In this case we are passing the ‘choices’ option a string that contains the responses we expect (ie – denver broncos) with a series of possible spoken phrases inside the parenthesis that could qualify. When one of those phrases is recognized, the qualifying value gets populated in the ‘choices.value’.

So what are you waiting for? Start talking with your users. There are many more examples in multiple languages may be found here.

Messaging with Tropo

Posted on August 27, 2009 by Jason Goecke

After our announcement for support of SMS and Instant Messaging at SpeechTek this week, I would like to build upon Mike Thompson’s post for building Messaging into your Tropo applications. To get started all you need is the same Tropo account you are already using.

When you log in to your account now, you will notice three additional features:

1. An option to add a URL that powers SMS/messaging


2. An option to add an SMS enabled number (provided we have them in stock)


3. An option to add one or more Instant Messaging Networks to your application


Once you have created a new application, now you need to write a script. The beauty is that you use the same methods and capabilities of the existing Tropo API. In this Ruby example (available on Gist) we are going to play a sandwich trivia game, where we ask the user to tell us what WE think are the best sandwiches ever:


When you then chat with the Instant Messaging or SMS account you have configured in your application, you will see something like this:


Thats it! You have added messaging to your Tropo account.

A current consideration is that when dealing with different channels your timeouts need to be adjusted. On a voice call you may not want to wait for a response any more than 10 seconds, while with messaging you may want to wait 30 seconds or 60 seconds or more. This is why we have two URLs, one for voice and one for SMS/messaging right now, to allow you to account for user behavior across different channels.

Stay tuned as we add additional features to Tropo, and enjoy!

Slides available for Voxeo CTO RJ Auburn's ClueCon talk: "Hey, man, can I get a clue?"

Posted on August 11, 2009 by Adam Kalsey

Out at ClueCon 2009 last week in Chicago, Voxeo CTO RJ Auburn gave his talk “Hey, man, can I get a clue?” all about development of communications applications in general and in specific.

Like most of RJ’s presentations, he’s got lots of great slides and made it quite a fun and enjoyable preso. I recorded a video of the presentation which I’ll be working on getting up on our site soon. Meanwhile, take a look through his slides:

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