I think VoiceXML will be the next really big revolution on “the web”. Of course, its no longer the web because they aren’t really webpages. They are XML files that are read to you and have programmed responses. VoiceXML is an easy way for developers to create interactive voice response systems. Combined with a dynamic scripting language like PHP, these XML files can be very powerful.
Instead of a web browser, people will have voice browsers. These voice browsers will parse the XML, turn the text into voice, and receive specific voice commands based on what’s in the XML. Once a voice command has been interpreted, it sends it back to the server to fetch another VoiceXML page.
Notice how this way of doing things limits the bandwidth across the network and also makes the server extremely scalable because the server doesn’t have to do any processing of voice. Instead of sending voice across the network, we send text which the browser translates to and from speech.
In response to Dave’s first comment below:
I’m pretty sure the blind already have this kind of technology to read web pages. In fact, I just looked it up and found this:
Sorry that I didn’t mention mobile applications in my initial post. I definitely don’t see voice browsers replacing web browsers on full sized screens. People can read much faster than they can listen or speak.
Depending on how small your screen is on a mobile device, it might be more efficient to listen than to try to read the screen. It is definitely faster to speak than to try to type on a very small keyboard if your device even has a keyboard at all. So, this would be perfect for small devices where the other methods of getting information in and out are inefficient.
Also, like you mention, it would be good while you are driving, because you need to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Or, you could just turn on the auto-pilot. Oh wait, we don’t have that for cars yet.