A minor news item in the larger scheme of things, but the very fact the maneuver surprised me means I haven’t internalized what a fad it is to donate code. It doesn’t appear to be a full VoiceXML stack, nor is it the acclaimed ViaVoice desktop engine, but it’s a start nonetheless…

The New York Times > Technology > Speech Code From I.B.M. to Become Open Source

After decades of research and development, speech recognition is moving toward mainstream use. Advances in statistical modeling, pattern-matching algorithms and processing power have enabled speech recognition to interpret a far broader vocabulary of words and phrases than in the past, though glitches remain.

The software for speech-recognition applications once had to be custom built, but now packages of reusable and standardized tools are becoming available. The speech software can now be added to a Web application so that programmers can use familiar tools and need little additional training.

“This whole speech world is going in the same direction as the rest of the information technology industry, and that should drastically reduce the cost of building speech applications,” said Mark Plakias, an analyst at Opus Research.

I.B.M. is donating code that it estimates cost the company $10 million to develop. One collection of speech software for handling basic words for dates, time and locations, like cities and states, will go to the Apache Software Foundation. The company is also contributing speech-editing tools to a second open-source group, the Eclipse Foundation.