Saturday, February 22, 2014

Share to Speech - an iPod for text to speech technology

Share to speech main page
Text to speech technology is available for so long time. During its evolution it became reliable and usable, so much that at some points you can't make difference between synthetic speech and real human speech. Still, you can't say large percent of population uses this technology, although its benefits are more than obvious.

But the same situation was with MP3 players - they were clearly ahead of CDs and audio tapes but still most people used the latter. And then came the iPod and changed everything. From the technology point, it was nothing new. But from the  human-machine interaction point, it was a revolution. It enabled most people to interact with MP3 technology in a meaningful way.

So, this is my first post on Share to Speech, a new software that will be soon available on Windows Store. The choice of Windows 8 was simple, as it has the Share charm, which enables easy interaction with other applications that have text. If text to speech is not just split second away from your content, it doesn't make sense.

Still different people might have different requirements from text to speech, and they also may vary from one situation to another. Application that doesn't take this into account is also useless. That's why there are four different ways to share with Share to speech:
  1. Speak now in background - you can continue your work, and the speech will start in the background
  2. Add to Now Speaking list - if there is another speech that is currently played, it won't be interrupted, but a new speech will be generated and played after it
  3. Create MP3 to listen later - app will create MP3 file and add it to To Listen items. Nothing will be played. To Listen items may be set to upload file to some location (like your USB flash drive or your SkyDrive or Dropbox folder), or you can do that from the app interface later. This way you can take your files where you really need them - like in your car or in your phone
  4. Speak from here - Uses share window to start speech - it has a benefit that it is easy to dismiss speech just by clicking anywhere outside the app, and it is not recorded as the item.
Still, things aren't even that simple - if you share web page, you don't want every text to be read on it, as it would be useless. Thus the app has intelligent algorithm that finds exact parts of page that contain only article text and reads just them.

Finally, the app has a beautiful interface to track your articles - as it processes items from Now Speaking and To Listen, they are moved to Library. And using the share charm, you can share those articles from the app to email, or Facebook or any other app that accepts sharing.

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