It’s safe to say that as CEO and founder of Voices, I’m in the business of voices. Every day on our platform we help clients find the right voice to bring their message to life. While usually that means a living, breathing human voice, there are times when a synthetic voice is the right choice for a project. That’s where text to speech software comes in.
Text to speech software is a rapidly growing form of technology that takes recordings of human voices and turns them into an artificial voice, allowing text to be read out loud. At Voices, we created what we call the “Human vs. Synthetic Decision Matrix,” which helps you determine if a synthetic voice or a human voice is right for your project. What we found is that the higher the quality of recording and the longer duration of the recording, the more a human voice is appropriate. But there is a space for a synthetic voice in times when the recording does not need to elicit emotion and can be short, like navigational prompts or reading out a recipe.
Like many technologies, COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption and the growth of text to speech technology. The healthcare industry in particular has seen an increased adoption of this technology in 2020 to help make medical jargon and health information easier to understand. Let’s walk through three other industries that are poised to transform with the adoption of text to speech technologies in 2021.
The eLearning industry saw a massive growth of 900% in 2020, and it’s easy to see why. The industry was already growing with improvements in digital learning and a movement towards continual learning, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced all learning to go digital for periods of time. In our recent trends report, we predicted that 2021 will be a year of innovation in the eLearning industry, and text-to-speech technology will be a part of that.
Reading text-heavy documents, like ebooks and PDFs, on a computer is a daunting task. Text to speech software can liven up this content by converting them into an audio format. Rather than using a voice actor for every document they want their students to read, educators can use text to speech software to voice this static content.
eLearning courses have been praised for their ability to improve information retention and to engage their students. By offering long-form content in two formats, written and spoken, educators are promoting bimodal learning and are being inclusive to students with learning disabilities.
As college and university instructors look to another possible year of online learning, some are turning to voice cloning to lighten their workload. By using voice technology, instructors can take their written lectures and have them voiced for them, rather than having to record each and every one themselves, giving them more time to work directly with students.
For younger students, text to speech software can help them in a variety of ways. This technology will often highlight the section of the text being read out loud, allowing students to follow along and to better understand the material. It’s also useful in helping students learn proper word pronunciation.
As we’re all spending more time in our homes, we’re becoming more comfortable speaking to voice assistants in private. This extends to our cars as well. ReadSpeaker reports that “Car manufacturers are increasingly demanding embedded speech solutions in their GPS and navigation systems, as well as their telematics systems,” meaning that drivers will soon be turning to voice technologies to ask for directions, to find a radio station, or to adjust settings like temperature.
A lot of these actions improve safety in your car, allowing you to focus on the road rather than on your phone. Text to speech technology has the ability to read text messages and emails out loud for you, and can even work the other way around by typing out your dictated response. The adoption of this type of technology is sure to increase as we all become more comfortable with interacting with AI using only our voice.
In-car speech recognition systems are already in place by some of the big players. Apple has Apple CarPlay that connects your iPhone to your car’s display system and uses Siri to help you navigate through the features on your phone. Google’s Android Audio is similar, but uses a USB cable to connect to your car. But what the future looks like for this technology is still to be seen. There’s potential for these speech recognition systems to do more than what your phone allows, like helping to park or steering your car in the direction of the nearest coffee shop.
Travel and Tourism
The travel and tourism industries have always been faced with the struggle of communicating with travellers in a variety of languages. The tourist staring down at a book of translations to be able to ask for directions is a cliché for a reason. Text to speech technology is perfect for helping travellers get to where they need to go. It can be used in airports and train stations over the PA systems, and even on the websites of hotels and attractions.
Another place you may interact with a synthetic voice while travelling is in a guided tour of a museum or art gallery. Those building these tours can add the tour transcription into their synthetic voice engine and use text to speech technology to speak to those being guided. This technology is an incredible way to cater to travellers from all over the world.
With 2020 behind us, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities of 2021 when it comes to adopting and enhancing technologies. Text to speech has the benefits of being scalable, it helps build a more accessible world, and gives its user the flexibility to consume content on the go. It contributes to our voice-first world where we can communicate with our devices in increasingly complex — and hands-free — ways.