Text to voice or text to speech technologies have many useful applications, from helping people with certain disabilities to communicate easily or making your life easier while working or studying.
Computer software that transforms written text into speech has evolved immensely over the last two decades. However, early use of text to voice technologies and trying to automatically transform written texts into speech dates back to the 1940's - 1950's. Scientists invented electronic speech analyzers able to reproduce, in speech, the words typed on a keyboard. In the 1980s and 1990s the technology developed substantially. MITalk systems, were the leaders in the development and their work was based on the work of MIT scientist Dennis Klatt and the bell Labs systems. However, electronic speech analyzers and synthesizers available back then sounded robotic and were somewhat hard to understand.
Software revolution. Once computers started to be a familiar presence in our lives, different types of software capable of turning a written text document into speech became available. Text to voice technologies have now the capacity to render an almost human voice. People dealing with speech impediments benefit now from a simple, effective and cheap technology, allowing them to communicate properly. The person who made text to voice technologies most famous is the genius physicist Stephen Hawking. Text to voice technology made it possible for Stephen Hawking, who is a paraplegic, to communicate orally with other people. But, of course, he is just one of the tens of thousands of people all over the world who use this type of technology to drastically improve the quality of their life. Text to speech software made it possible, for people with severe speech impediments, to overcome their disabilities and to become more productive.
Helping those with disabilities is not the only application of this type of technology. To be able to turn a text into voice might come in handy in many situations. There are many e-books available now, but let’s face it: how much time to read do we still have? Maybe an hour or two each day, at the most. But we do have a lot of boring chores to do each day: driving to work and back home, going shopping, cleaning the house and so on. With text to voice technologies, you can actually transform any of your e-books into audio books, put them on a small device (MP3 player, smartphone and so on) and enjoy them any time you want. Some conference organisers have also been known to transcribe the conference speaking notes in to ebook format and that in turn can be listened too anywhere using text to voice technologies.
Students can also benefit greatly from using text to voice software. All those long textbooks can take a lot of time and energy to be read. Instead of spending many hours reading them, why not transform them into speech and listen to them while exercising or walking through the campus? People have different ways of learning. For certain people, visual memory works best, which means they will learn faster if they see the actual printed text. Well, that’s not a problem: any book, magazine or article is available as written text. But there are also people who find it more difficult learning and remembering written texts. They have what is called an “auditive memory”. This means they learn new things much easier by listening, as opposed to reading. If you are one of these people, text to speech technologies will be a great way of learning and consuming books and information.
Text to voice technologies are available in all major languages. Actually, you can find text to voice software available for more than 30 languages. They sound very natural – it’s almost like a human voice, like someone is reading that text to you. There are now numerous software applications capable of translating text to voice. In order to find the software that has the right characteristics for your needs, read some customer reviews before actually committing to your purchase. Of course, the first step is to find out if the software is available for your language. Most are available in English, but if you require a different language you should check first if that specific language is available. A natural, human like rendering of the text is also very important. Customer reviews will let you know if other people were comfortable with the quality of the synthesized voice and how well the software worked for them.