The Linux Foundation launches Open Voice Network to build industrywide digital assistant standards

A nonprofit association has several high-profile partners with the goal of building inclusive, open source secure standards for the next frontier in computer-human interaction.

Image: iStockphoto/chombosan

The Linux Foundation has announced a new initiative aimed at creating global, open-source standards for the ever-growing voice assistant market. Called the Open Voice Network, the Linux Foundation said it will “allow for community-wide contributions that will accelerate conversational AI standards rollout and adoption.”

Founding partners of the Open Voice Network include Target, Microsoft, Schwarz Gruppe, Wegmans Food Markets, Veritone and T-mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom, giving the OVN several high-profile participants with the power to carry out its objectives.

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In a press release announcing the OVN, the Linux Foundation said that voice is the next natural evolution in computer interface, and standardization will be essential to create voice assistants that users will trust, be able to use with ease and help foster innovation.

“The potential impact of voice on industries including commerce, transportation, healthcare and entertainment is staggering,” said Linux Foundation SVP and GM of projects, Mike Dolan. As the OVN’s website points out, however, “Issues such as privacy, data use, access to third party sites and applications, interoperability and the like are managed at a commercial platform level,” which is slowing down advancement of what could be an economically transformative technology.

Citing open standards created in the earliest days of the internet, the Linux Foundation said that OVN standards will build on that same principle to create a uniform way of exchanging data between platforms, be they general use digital assistants like Siri or Alexa, or company-specific ones designed to perform specific functions.

To that end, the Linux Foundation said that the Open Voice Network will initially be focusing on three areas: Developing standards, creating awareness of voice assistants and identifying how they can have value in different industries, and advocating on issues of regulation, legislation and data privacy.

In fact, privacy and user trust is a cornerstone of the Open Voice Network’s mission. “Research points to a trust gap that raises critical questions of privacy, data security, ease of use, brand protection, interoperability, and equal and unbiased access for individual and organizational users alike,” the OVN said on its website. Key to countering those concerns, it said, is communal development and adoption of standards and guidelines.

“Standards push investment toward the development of new capabilities and features; they spark the creation of developer tools; and, for enterprise users, they deliver a ‘build once, use many’ efficiency, as the need for proprietary interfaces diminishes,” the OVN said.

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The Open Voice Network is basing its direction on four key values that it said it wants to see throughout the world of voice assistance: Systems that are worthy of trust; that enable user, ecosystem and architectural choice; that are inclusive and accessible; and that are open in both software and hardware.”

Companies interested in supporting the OVN’s project can learn more at its website.

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