Text-to-speech assistance technology: Best tools

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Accessibility on August 25, 2022
Technology is improving our quality of life every day. Here’s how to choose the best text-to-speech assistive technology tools for your needs!

    Text-to-speech (TTS) assistive technology: Best tools

    Text-to-speech apps are software that turn text into speech. Most of them use OCR-based technology (optical character recognition). This means that they can recognize characters in text documents as well as pictures and turn them into speech.

    At their core, these are assistive apps. They can help people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia enjoy the content that would previously be almost impossible for them. On the other hand, they also allow us to listen to articles and text documents while multitasking with other activities like driving or doing chores.

    This technology isn’t brand-new, which means that there are many apps that provide the same service. However, not all of them are as good as others. Follow along as we explain how to pick a TTS tool that will suit your needs the best.

    Getting the most out of text-to-speech

    There are many reasons people use text-to-speech software. Yet, only a few do it just for fun. As such, to get the most out of them, it’s essential to have a purpose. One common reason to use a TTS app would be if you had a learning disability like dyslexia or a visual impairment that restricts you from reading and writing. Luckily, with the use of a TTS app, one can easily overcome such obstacles.

    Another common purpose for the use of TTS software would be to catch up on the latest new articles while doing something else that requires your full attention. For example, if you’re driving, you can paste your article into the app, and it will read the text aloud to you. The same goes for any other activity that restricts you from reading. 

    Aside from overcoming reading difficulties and entertainment, these software programs are useful to get in touch with the latest technology. After all, in a day and age of constant tech development, it’s easy to find yourself behind. So, we’d recommend getting on the text-to-speech tool bandwagon sooner rather than later. TTS apps are now commonplace in video production, improving website accessibility, creating memes, and more.

    To get the most out of your text-to-speech experience, it’s necessary to try different tools before you can choose that perfect one. Luckily, they’re a dime a dozen. Many of them are also free, which is a great way to familiarize yourself with the tech before spending your hard-earned money. But don’t worry—you don’t have to try all of them. We’ll list the best ones right here!

    Best new assistive technology tools

    • Voice Dream: Voice Dream reader is a popular piece of TTS software. It gets the job done for both students with learning disabilities and people who generally enjoy listening more than reading. Still, Voice Dream does have its downsides. It isn’t free, and it’s also only available for iOS platforms and Android. There isn’t a version for Windows-based computers.

    • Wideo: Although primarily a video-creating platform, Wideo offers text-to-speech services, too. This is one of the features that sets it apart from other software of its kind out there. It’s an easy-to-use tool that pretty much gets the job done for TikTok users. But since it’s not a TTS tool at its core, the audio might sound a bit lifeless compared to other options.

    • Nextup: TextAloud from Nextup is another popular TTS tool on the market. It’s a solid companion for everyone using Windows-based computers, as it works particularly well with Microsoft Word as well as web pages. It also comes along with productivity and proofreading tools. The only issue with it is that it isn’t available for iPhones, iPads, and other Apple products, as well as Android mobile devices.

    • Azure Text to Speech: Azure is Microsoft’s very own answer to TTS technology, and it offers a range of features for its users. It advertises itself as having lifelike speech as well as fully customizable voices. Additionally, you can fiddle with audio controls such as speed, pitch, and pauses. Still, as it’s a Microsoft product, Azure isn’t available for Mac and Apple smartphones.

    • Google Cloud Text-to-Speech: Next up, we need to mention Google’s text-to-speech application. It’s a great match for anyone using the Google Chrome browser on an Android device or a PC. This app includes support for numerous languages and is a reliable pick for anyone on a tight budget. Still, there’s a certain limit of monthly characters that it can read for free. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay to use it in an unlimited fashion.

    • Amazon Polly: Similarly to the above-mentioned TTS programs, Amazon Polly is a proper tool to turn text into speech. It’s uses OCR technology, as well as machine learning, that can make your reading easier. There’s a free version of Amazon Polly, but it doesn’t provide many options. Hence, if you’re looking for high-quality features to overcome dyslexia, it might not be a perfect choice for you.

    • Speechify: Speechify is the answer to all your text-to-speech-related needs. It’s a high-end piece of software that uses OCR, machine learning, and advanced AI to turn what you read into speech on all platforms. The versatility of Speechify is above all other TTS tools, as well as its easy-to-use interface. It can help with learning difficulties, dictation, and making school literature way more engaging and fun. The lifelike voices, customization options, and accessibility across platforms and devices simply can’t be beat!

    Recent tesearch shows TTS apps are effective for learning

    In the last couple of years, several studies explored how text-to-speech technology affects students. All of them were conducted in a similar pattern. Researches would form two groups, with one group given TTS software to assist them in overcoming educational material—and a control group without. The results were unanimous. Students without text-to-speech tools would provide far worse results than those with software like Speechify and its alternatives.

    But these studies didn’t just focus on the improvement of students’ reading skills. Instead, they would also suggest that TTS apps help learners better understand words, concepts, as well as motivate them to keep learning. This was especially evident for students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, visual impairments, brain injuries, and emotional instabilities. As such, it’s safe to assume that text-to-speech apps like Speechify are the future of special education.

    What parents should know about assistive technology

    The challenges of parents with kids that have learning disabilities are many. From their education to how they’ll settle with the rest of the class, it’s all a tough task that’s worthy of all respect. Luckily, they can make it easier for both themselves and their children with the use of TTS assistive technology. By using an app like Speechify, students can up their literacy skills. This will, in turn, result in better test-taking, grades, and overall education.

    However, it’s not just about making learning easier for people with disabilities. TTS apps are a perfect way to make your kids of all abilities fall in love with reading. With an option to turn digital text and photos into an audio file, even the youngest children will form a serious bond with literature.

    Choosing the right assistive technology tools: What to look for

    Before you can start to enjoy turning the written word into speech, you need to consider two main things. First, not all TTS tools are compatible with your device, operating system, and web browser. You should, therefore, research if the software you’re looking to use has a version for your smartphone or computer, as well as the web browsers you use (Chrome, Safari, Microsoft, etc.).

    On the other hand, what are you looking for in text-to-speech application? Is it for educational or entertainment purposes? The thing is, not all TTS software programs will suit both needs. This is why it’s essential to choose the right one. Luckily for you, a screen reader like Speechify checks all the boxes—from versatility to user-friendliness to performance.

    How to get started: Speechify

    OCR, AI, and machine learning are what makes Speechify accomplish numerous tasks. Nevertheless, there are several ways that you can use this TTS application. It’s versatile, and that’s what makes it stand out from the rest.

    To get started, you’ll need to download the appropriate version for your device. It works on iOS operating systems, as well as on Android smartphones. On the other hand, if you’re looking to use it on a computer, you can also install the macOS or Windows version.

    Once you install it on your device, you can run any text through it by simply pasting it into the application. Then again, if you want Speechify to read aloud another format (e.g., a photo) you can do that as well, thanks to some OCR magic.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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