Adding speech input to your webapp is much easier than it might first seem.
This is part of the proposed HTML5 enhancements to FORMS and is already implmented in some browsers.
Google Chrome (WebKit 534.24) added this in version 11 in April 2011.
XHTML compatible example:
<input type="text" x-webkit-speech="x-webkit-speech" speech="speech" value="" />
In this example, ‘x-webkit-speech’ is the proprietary attribute used by Google Chrome (WebKit). ‘speech’ is the expected HTML5 attribute when it is finalized.
I’ve used a variety of computer based VOIP over the years. My current preference in this space is Skype as it’s free for computer-to-computer calls and even allows calls to and from regular phones (at a fee).
Video and text chat are also provided, as is ‘white-boarding’ with additional plugins.
Skype is available for most platforms, even mobile phones… I’ve found that while the Windows beta versions has some additional features, the Linux release is rock-solid.
There are also several hardware based solutions, like Vonage, available to replace your traditional phone service… perhaps we’ll cover that later.