Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Read Word (and other text) docs with your eyes shut!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Despite first appearances my latest party trick involves no risky eyelid surgery or telepathy of any kind. Rather, this feat can be achieved by running your documents through a text to speech synthesis tool capable of saving the output to an audio file (MP3 being the optimal format for maximum compatibility). These MP3s can be transferred to your portable player allowing you to 'read' web site articles, ebooks, Word documents, emails and so on, on the go.

The Mac is the ideal platform on which to make such conversions since OS X includes as standard very capable speech synthesizer technology incorporating 22 different voices. These range from conservative male and female dialects to wacky robotic and funeral overtone-infused vocalisations.

Because Apple has already done the hard work, it's very easy and cheap for software authors to piggyback this technology in creating text to speech conversion tools. Vox Machina proves my point - it can generate audio files, read text aloud directly and even map the spoken text to an animated representation of a mouth - a technique known as lip-syncing. It's a totally free download of Lilliputian proportions.

Chunky, shareware PC alternatives can be found here.

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