A voice portal is a software, and sometimes hardware, setup that allows a person to access information using his or her voice. This could be through a mobile device and an interactive voice response (IVR) system, or it could be through a computer with a microphone. The information that can be retrieved through a voice portal could be anything, including Internet search results, emails, weather and even directions to a location. The process is intended to be mostly automated and more convenient than using a keyboard to perform the same queries.
One of the leading uses for voice portal technology is in the online and catalog sales industry. By providing an IVR to customers calling a service number, a properly configured system could interpret what a customer is saying, retrieve relevant information such as order status, and then read that information back to the customer. This can help a company to keep their phone lines to live agents open for problems that the IVR cannot resolve.
Some systems that are installed in new cars and onboard navigation devices and cell phones use a voice portal combined with a global positioning system (GPS) to provide directions to people who are driving. This is convenient, because the attention of the driver remains focused on the road and the instructions can be audibly read back to the driver. These same systems allow email messages to be checked through a vehicle with a mobile wireless connection.
The term "voice portal" is derived from the term "Internet portal", which refers to a single website that is used as a gateway to other websites, like a search engine. Internet portal companies provide voice portal services. This works by having a person somehow reach the portal, whether through a mobile device or computer, and then navigate a number of options verbally. This can allow someone to perform an Internet search and have the results read back, and eventually the selected website displayed on the screen of the device being used.
As convenient as voice portal technology might be, it still has some issues that need to be addressed. Speech recognition technology has come a very long way in a short time, but it is still not perfect. There are many instances in which the software could be unable to discern what word is being said and then stumble or perform incorrect actions. There is also the issue with Internet access through a voice portal that the information that must ultimately be relayed to the caller will have to be displayed on a screen since it would be difficult to determine what text on a page is relevant and what is not.