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 them lately.
When TTS Is Useful
We can probably all agree that 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.
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.
TTS can also be effective as the voice of an avatar or guide. It also seems appropriate when there isn’t time or budget for recording and syncing visuals and audio, 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.
Text-to-speech capabilities are integrated into Adobe Captivate, providing a way to use this feature without requiring additional software. But if your authoring tool of choice does not have this functionality, you will need to rely on external software and import the audio files. 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.
TEXT TO SPEECH SYNTHESIZERS
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, such as a learning portals, you can also connect through their API using a few lines of code and you’ve got a spoken version of your text.
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.
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 software works with PowerPoint. It generates narration from PowerPoint text.
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.
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.
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.
Linguatec publishes VoiceReader software, which can convert any text to audio. VoiceReader text-to-speech works in many different languages.
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.
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.
How do you use text to speech in online learning? Tell us your experiences and recommendations.