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Answers Anywhere Advances Intelligent UI

Few developments have driven the evolution of the user interface more than the crabgrass-like proliferation of mobile computing devices. So-called multimodal functionality, which allows users to request information by voice and receive answers via SMS, for example, has become a critical feature just a few years after it first appeared.

Beyond mutlimodality lies what iAnywhere, the mobile technology subsidiary of Sybase, calls the "intelligent UI," which not only supports a range of input and output modalities, but also provides context awareness that anticipates users’ needs.

iAnywhere's Answers Anywhere middleware platform is designed to give developers tools for building these kinds of easy-to-use application interfaces. Launched at last year's CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment Conference in San Francisco, Answers Anywhere grew out of iAnywhere's acquisition of natural language interface technology company Dejima.

This week the company is releasing the 4.0 version of the tool, which breaks new ground, says Ilan Dar, senior architect with iAnywhere's Answers Anywhere group, by providing developers with the means to create user interfaces that anticipate user interactions, reflect implied information and reduce user actions to complete tasks.

"It's an interface that isn't giving you just the information you ask for," Dar says, "but related information. If you’re looking at a restaurant listing, the system might offer to give you directions to the restaurant, or ask if you’d like to hear about movies playing nearby. In a sales force application, a user might ask for contacts, and the application could also display a list of meetings with those contacts, or possible opportunities to meet with those contacts. There are things that users typically do in succession, and this technology helps them through the system in the way they are most likely to want to go. This capability is a huge productivity enhancer among mobile application users."

Answers Anywhere 4.0 also comes with enhanced context awareness capabilities—the context engine enables applications to "know" what types of info the user might need—and a hint engine that lets developers offer suggestions to help users quickly narrow down what they're looking for.

It also provides coders with simplified development components and templates, automatic SQL generation capabilities and improved documentation.

The tool supports a range of input and output modalities, including voice, e-mail, Web, SMS/MMS, IM, WAP and iMode. It supports information and service requests in any language; online and wireless services over any connection method, including wired networks, wireless and Wi-Fi, and cradle synchronization; and all major operating systems, including Windows, Linux and Unix.

For more information, go to: iAnywhere.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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