Big changes are coming to the world of text-to-speech (TTS). Whereas one time the voices came off as completely robotic, AI technology is improving their sound. I highly admire and appreciate the talents of voice actors and will continue to hire them for finished work. But you may have situations when you need TTS to fill in the gaps. That’s what this article is about.
When TTS Is Useful
As AI software takes over this space, the voices are becoming more natural sounding, but still have a way to go. Are there uses for a voice that sounds somewhat flat without the richness of a human voice? Although text-to-speech does not display the range of talents found in a skilled narrator, there may be times when this option is worth exploring.
- Accessibility: One reason to use text-to-speech (TTS) software is to provide accessibility to visually impaired persons or those who have difficulties with reading. Not all online courses are narrated and often instructions are left as text only. TTS is a way to overcome these obstacles.
- Lack of Funds: Consider TTS if you are in a situation where you have no budget for voice talent, yet have a requirement to produce eLearning with voiceover.
- Dummy or Scratch Audio: You may have clients or stakeholders who lack experience with eLearning or videos. You may want to provide particularly for dummy or scratch audio when you need to show others how the media elements will be integrated. Finally, in an imaginative piece, TTS could be appropriate as the sound of a machine, object or computer.
- Chatbots and Audio Interfaces: TTS voices align well with the voice of a device
- Pedagogical Agent or Guide: TTS can also be effective as the voice of an avatar or guide. Because it is obvious that the agent is computer-generated, the limitations of the nonhuman voice might be acceptable to the audience.
- Games: TTS voices may work well with learning games, as users may not expect a human voice.
Below is a list of text-to-speech software you can explore. Listen carefully to the voices as some have demos that read back text you’ve entered. Also, many now have speakers in multiple languages.
AI VOICEOVER SOFTWARE
Amazon Polly is a service that allows you to create applications that talk, and build entirely new categories of speech-enabled products. My understanding is that this service is useful for voice interfaces in digital products.
Text-based voice over creation with 100+ voices using AI technology. The technology is trained on professional voice over artists, so the timing and intonation are better than older technologies, but without the warmth of the human voice. Editing is in real time. See what you think when you check out their samples.
Similar to Murf described above, this popular AI text-to-speech software has a library of voices from which to choose. They emphasize an easy workflow for getting your narration needs taken care of. Check out their sample voices.
TEXT TO SPEECH SYNTHESIZERS
These non-AI synthesizers are best for personal use, when listening is easier than reading documents, such as attachments to eLearning, documents in a Wiki, and for other purposes.
iSpeech has a variety of online services and pricing models for converting TTS and downloading the files from their site. If you are developing a website or learning portal, you can also connect through their API using a few lines of code and you’ve got a spoken version of your text. The use case here is limited for learning products.
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. It runs as desktop software.
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.
This TTS narration software works with PowerPoint to produce narrated presentations, videos, eLearning and training courses. As an add-in to PowerPoint it can generate narration clips from any script text and automatically sync the narration clips with PowerPoint text and shape animations. Speech-Over uses Acapela-Group TTS voices with a commercial license.
VoiceForge positions its voice software as a fun and fast mobile app for creating TTS voices. There are a few pricing plans and a free one with ads. You get access to all the character voices, but this service is for online applications and devices only.
How do you use text to speech in online learning? Share your experiences and recommendations.
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