Friday, January 23, 2009

Introducing SpeechPlayer

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce a nifty text-to-speech (TTS) application that I’ve been working on for the past few months. The application is called SpeechPlayer and is near final release. You can download the beta today and give it a try.

(UPDATE 06/2009: Version 1.0 has been released.)

Why SpeechPlayer?

PortalGroove SpeechPlayer There are tons of TTS apps in the market — some free and most of them shareware. Some of them give you a browser plug-in and with a press of a button…voila!…the web page speaks!

Others require you to copy a piece of text into the clipboard or into the TTS application window for the text to be read out aloud. The TTS application window will then “highlight” the word that is “spoken” out. Great but then when you want to do some multitasking like switching to your browser window to view other stuff, the TTS window is obliterated and basically, the word-highlighting visual cue provided by the TTS application is hidden from the user.

Though not necessary, having some form of visual cue is useful as not all words pronounced by the TTS voice will be correct. Although text-to-speech technology has improved over the years, it’s still far from perfect.

SpeechPlayer closed captioning feature

SpeechPlayer is not much any different from other TTS app; it can read most text files directly, or read text inside the Windows clipboard.

caption-window

In SpeechPlayer, I introduce something which is similar to closed caption, or subtitles, or even news ticker bar on your TV (see image above).

When SpeechPlayer is reading a piece of text, it will display the words being read on a little semi-transparent strip at the bottom of the screen. This allows the user to continue working on other stuff while being able to listen and yet, still able to view the spoken text. I’m using SpeechPlayer regularly and I find it greatly enhances productivity!

SpeechPlayer export capabilities

SpeechPlayer can also export the speech in the TTS voice of your choice to an audio file like WAV or MP3. You can then transfer the audio files to your portable MP3 player and take them with you to the gym for example.

I’ve also included a feature where you can embed the speech transcript into the MP3 file (i.e. as MP3 lyrics). Some MP3 players are capable of displaying these “lyrics” — which is again, useful — as it complements the listening experience.

SpeechPlayer also features a convenient one-click export to iTunes playlist. From iTunes, you can then sync the playlist with your iPod.

Releases

There are two versions to SpeechPlayer — a shareware version and a freeware version. The shareware version ($19.95) comes with all the bells and whistles, and features a 15-day free trial.

On the other hand, the freeware version only provides basic functionality (e.g. no caption appearance customization and export features) but has no time restriction.

Give it a try!

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