As the W3C works to ensure the Web is available to all people on any device, they have been hard at work releasing guidelines and standards. This week they published a new standard enabling interactions beyond the traditional keyboard and mouse.
Meet EMMA, the Extensible MultiModal Annotation specification.
EMMA works to promote the development of rich Web applications that can be adapted to more input modes (such as handwriting, natural language and gestures) and output modes (such as synthesized speech) at lower cost.
Obviously, the web has evolved considerably since its inception. More people use the Web in more platforms and opportunities for multimodal interactions have multiplied. From handheld devices that allowed input through stylus or voice to touch screens to devices that detect motion and orientation are increasingly commonplace in some markets.
EMMA allows developers to separate the "logic" layer of an application from the "interaction" layer, making it easier to adapt applications to new scenarios.
EMMA allows developer to account for ambiguity in user input, making it possible to select from among competing hypotheses and overcome errors. EMMA also makes supplementary information about interactions (such as the interaction date) available as well.
Perhaps the industry most affected by EMMA is the mobile industry. It will be able to make applications adaptable to the mobile context. For example, most cell phones are capable of receiving both voice and text input. With EMMA, it will be easier to create applications that can take advantage of text, voice or both.
EMMA is another W3C initiative that is likely to benefit people with disabilities. Multimodal input systems provide alternate methods for Web interaction and access for people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities. Those without keyboard operation abilities can rely on speech recognition, and those who use touch commands without firm authority may rely on EMMA mechanisms for interpreting uncertainty.
Many telecommunications companies were involved in the development of EMMA, including AT&T, Cisco Systems, France Telecom, Genesys, HP, Microsoft and Voxeo -- proving that there is a great interest in advancing mobile and web technologies.