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09/29/2009

Ribbit Contributes Voice Conferencing, Messaging to Google Wave

Google's long anticipated Wave online collaboration tool is going live with voice functions supplied by Ribbit. Wave lets users communicate via rich text, maps, photos, video and other means. Ribbit's contribution will let them talk and exchange voice messages as well. As such, it makes voice communication an integrated part of a larger collaboration process.

A Wave session is a sort of multimedia document that changes in real time. Participants can add or change content at any time, with their changes instantly visible to other participants. They can also later play back the session to see who did what, and when they did it. Ribbit adds voice to the process through two gadgets.

The first, Ribbit's conferencing gadget, allows the creation of audio connections among the participants. Users can bring non-Wave participants into the audio sessions as well. They can also hold, mute or disconnect participants. But although both the audio and the messaging and other onscreen activities happen in real time, the audio is not part of the ongoing Wave document.

With the Ribbit message gadget, by contrast, participants call a dial-in number and leave voice messages. The gadget provides speech-to-text transcription as well as the MP3 audio itself. And unlike with the conferencing gadget, the messages are embedded in the Wave session itself for later access during playback.

The gadgets' role in Wave exemplifies an ongoing trend towards turning voice communication into just one part of larger applications and services. In many cases, it might not even be the most important part. As such, the trend represents a radical change from the past, in which voice was a self-contained service of its own, taking place separately from every other activity.

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