The issue of Synthetic Voices has garnered as much or more attention on this blog as any other one topic.
There are unique challenges and advantages in this area to the voice actor. I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, a little backstory: I’ve blogged about this at least 6 times in recent years:
*Synthetic Voice: Revolutionary or Repugnant?
*‘Touched a (Synthetic?) Nerve!
*Synthetic Voices — this time with digital code!
Well, here comes another one.
Speak Text For Me.com and the Speak Text iPhone app lead you to the same service…a software solution that claims to read out loud anything you highlight on a website or a document in 20 different native languages, and that can translate from English to 30 different languages.
Google translate offers much the same functionality, but not spoken (that I know of).
Certainly the technology exists, and it’s better than ever. The best examples of this sit at the top of a long history of software development that essentially defines the best of artificial intelligence based on powerful algorithms. Dragon Naturally Speaking, now owned by the Software company NUANCE, is advanced in this. From the start Amazon’s Kindle has offered the feature of text-to-speech.
But Speak Text For Me seems to go one better. From their site:
1. Speak & translate the touched words on web pages and documents.
2. Speak & translate the whole page from start or touched words to the end sentence by sentence.
3. Search and speak the whole page from matching words to the end sentence by sentence.
4. Switch to available Google or Microsoft translating service automatically.
5. Support powerful speaking repeat, pause and speed options.
– Speak & translate web pages and documents
– Web pages
– Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint
– Apple iWork: Pages, Numbers, Keynote
– eBook (epub)
– Text, RTF document
Why VO’s should care:
#1. Growing acceptance of synthetic voices may cut into our services. These new innovative software products often feature outright computer-simulated human voices, replacing the need for a real human voice. Critics claim listening to these artificially-created voices becomes monotonous and tedious. Others listeners like it for it’s neutrality.
#2 Growing acceptance of synthetic voices may create more VO opportunities. Example: Siri…the new artificial intelligence app in the iPhone 4s. In every country where this app is sold, a voice-actor was contracted to speak the thousands of responses.
#3 These programs can aid in quick pronunciation help. Sometimes in audiobook work, I spend valuable narration time doing research for foreign or difficult technical pronunciations. A program like Speak Text For Me can be invaluable as a resource in this task.
What’s your take on all this?