Do you like Paul and Kate or are you fond of Mike and Crystal? Personally, I think Charles and Audrey from the UK are brilliant. This is how I started to think about synthesized voice characters after listening to so many of them lately.
When Adobe included a text to speech (TTS) application in Captivate 4, I began to think this might be a viable option for certain learning situations.
Of course computer-generated voices do not have the warmth and richness of a human voice, nor can they display the range of talents found in a skilled narrator. But there are times when this option is worth exploring.
For example, text to speech software is certainly a viable approach for providing accessibility to visually impaired persons. Not all online courses are narrated and often instructions are left as text only. TTS is a way to overcome these obstacles.
TTS can also be effective as the voice of an avatar or guide, like the Ben character from MediaSemantics above. It also seems appropriate when there isn’t time or budget for recording and syncing visuals and audio, particularly for dummy audio when you need to show others how the media elements will be integrated.
Here are some of the sites where you can explore text to speech software and listen to a variety of voices. Some have demos that read back text you’ve entered … a fun and worthwhile way to procrastinate.
TEXT TO SPEECH SYNTHESIZERS
iSpeech has a variety of online services and pricing models for converting TTS on websites. You connect through their API using a few lines of code and you’ve got a spoken version of your text.
Loquendo is a multilingual text to speech engine with high-quality voices that even provide emotional emphasis. Their engine can be used by developers in a variety of ways.
NaturalSoft makes the NaturalReader software that comes in several versions, including a free one. The Professional version is most relevant to online learning as it converts files to wav/.mp3 formats and comes with two or four voices.
NeoSpeech is primarily an on-demand service, though they do license their software engine to developers. You buy credits, select a voice, enter or copy/paste text into their editor, and download the synthesized audio files.
NextUp sells the synthesizer TextAloud 2 for the PC and Ghostreader for the Mac. It also sells diverse character voices in different languages from the major voice publishers, including AT&T Natural Voices, Acapela Group, RealSpeak and Cepstral.
This is an online TTS application that provides conversion of text files and documents to audio files using a variety of voice characters. There’s a free version and a paid upgrade.
SpokenText is an online speech to text synthesizer that converts text files, documents (pdf, doc, ppt) and web pages to audio files. There are a variety of pricing structures and several voices to choose from.
Virtual Speaker is another text to speech converter. It has a lot of options for making recordings, but potential buyers need to contact the publisher, Acapela Group, for pricing.
This is an online TTS service using Cepstral’s voices. You get access to all the character voices for one price, but this service is for online applications and devices only.
Just in case you’re a developer or in case your business is looking for a TTS technology, check out the Wizzard site. They produce speech applications for developers and businesses and they use AT&T’s Natural Voices.
Acapela provides diverse audio services and one of these is the creation of character voices in many different languages. Check out the variety of their voices at their site.
This is AT&T’s demo page from their TTS Research Lab. You can listen to their voices on this site and purchase them elsewhere, like NextUp above or bundled with other TTS software.
Cepstral is a synthetic voice publisher. You can meet Allison, Lawrence, Vittoria and many more character voices from different countries at their Demos page. Voices work with both PC and Mac.
Nuance produces multilingual high-quality voices that can be purchased through NextUp above.
How do you use text to speech in online learning? Tell us your experiences and recommendations.