TTS readers are in high demand and ample supply. But does that mean all text to speech technology delivers the same performance?
Many TTS screen readers can process digital text from Microsoft Word documents, HTML web pages, or copy-pasted words from other text files. But few of them can convert locked digital and physical text from images into natural-sounding narration. Those that do use optical character recognition (OCR.)
What is OCR?
OCR, optical character recognition or text recognition, is a technology designed for specialized data extraction. It has numerous business applications and plenty of use in leisure and entertainment.
This type of technology usually has two components. It has a hardware element to scan images and a software element to extract and repurpose data. But the software component is the most exciting and complex part.
OCR software can single out individual letters and entire words and arrange them into sentences. In addition, it enables users to edit the original locked content, similar to editing a PDF file with locked text content.
How it works
The actual processing is fascinating. Although other two-color methods exist, OCR software converts physical documents into black-and-white digital copies.
Then, the OCR app analyzes dark and light areas in the image, knowing that the dark regions represent characters. Depending on the complexity of the software, it can focus on characters, words, or blocks of text simultaneously.
From there, the software identifies characters using feature recognition or pattern recognition algorithms. The feature detection algorithm uses a more complex process involving line and curve association and ASCII code conversions.
Regardless of an OCR app’s algorithm, it will also analyze the document structure to differentiate between text, tables, pictures, and other elements. That way, the only thing extracted is the text.
The main benefit of this technology is the ability to take physical documents and convert each page into a digital machine-readable text.
This advanced processing technique is already powerful on its own. It can automate data entry processes and streamline workflows in many industries. However, it provides even more advantages when coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning algorithms.
AI-enabled OCR can go beyond standard text processing and identify different languages, handwriting styles, etc. Combined with text to speech technology, OCR software can scan physical documents, process the text, and allow a TTS reader to turn that digital text into speech.
How to read text aloud from a picture
Not every Apple and Android mobile device user knows that their apps may have OCR technology and a TTS reader capable of accomplishing simple text to speech conversion tasks.
Android devices, at least those running Android 12 OS and above, come with a built-in TTS reader. It’s a useful tool for navigation, reading small fonts, etc.
But you can also use it to read text from pictures. Here’s how to set up your device:
- Go to the “Accessibility” menu via the “Settings” app.
- Enable the “Select to Speak” option.
- Go to the TTS reader’s “Settings” tab and turn on the “Read text on images” option.
- Return to your home screen and launch the “Camera” app.
- Point the camera at a study guide, newspaper, or other document with digital text.
- Tap the “Select to Speak” button before tapping on a word in the “Camera” app.
The TTS Android reader will start narrating from the highlighted word. You can select chunks of text by dragging your finger across the screen to make a selection, as you would when using a word processor.
Reading physical text aloud using an iPhone requires a working camera, iOS 15 and above, and enabling the built-in TTS reader.
- Navigate to the “Accessibility” tab from the “Settings” menu.
- Tap the “Spoken Content” feature.
- Enable the “Speak Selection” and “Speak Screen” options.
- Go back to the home screen and turn on the camera.
- Point the camera at a page and wait for the “Live Text” button to appear on the bottom toolbar.
- Tap the button to enable OCR screen reading.
- Swipe down using two fingers to begin reading from the top of the page.
- Tap a word or make a selection on the screen to read aloud a particular word, sentence, or paragraph.
Like Android devices, iPads and iPhones have limited OCR and TTS capabilities. While the word processing accuracy is above average, the voice quality is underwhelming due to its robotic nature.
Speechify – the alternative TTS with OCR technology
While built-in TTS readers and OCR software are lovely to have on mobile devices, their quality and performance are less than impressive.
Fortunately, you have an alternative. Speechify is a text to speech reader that combines OCR technology and high-quality AI-generated voices. Its functionality exceeds that of default mobile text readers and can scan lengthy documents to process the physical text into digital text.
From there, the complex algorithms generate natural-sounding voices that you can control and adjust to your desired reading speed. The Speechify text to speech software is available on the following platforms:
Whether you get it from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or download the desktop Mac version or the Chrome browser extension, one license is enough to use Speechify on all your desktop and mobile devices. The user-friendly interface appeals to all age groups and technical backgrounds.
Speechify OCR scans are available for real-time online reading. Alternatively, you can convert PDF files, screenshots, and other images into audio files with a high bitrate and listen to them offline at your own pace.
Designed for users with dyslexia, reading disabilities, visual impairment, and multitaskers, Speechify’s assistive technology does more than a typical full screen reader. It’s the app you want to turn any digital and physical text into speech, create podcasts, and improve your reading skills with less effort and greater focus.
Try the free Speechify text to speech app and personalize an immersive reading experience.