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Text-to-speech. Everything you need to know.

Text-to-speech

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Text-to-speech isn’t a new thing. It’s been around for a long time. In fact, it might surprise you for how long. Learn everything you need to know and then try it free!
Ready? It’s been around since the late 1950s, originating from Japan. Well, if you want to get technical, humans have been trying to get machines to emulate human sound since 1003 A. D.,  but we’re more focused on text-to-speech; as in the simple process of using AI to convert words into speech.

What is text-to-speech (TTS)?

Text-to-speech goes by a few names. Some refer to it as TTS, read aloud, or even speech synthesis; for the more engineered name. Today, it simply means using artificial intelligence to read words aloud be; it from a PDF, email, docs, or any website.  There isn’t a voice artist recording phrases or words, or even the entire article. Speech generation is done on-the-fly. And that’s the beauty and the usefulness of it all. You don’t have to wait. You simply press play and artificial intelligence makes the words come alive instantly, in a very natural sounding voice. You can change voices and accents across multiple languages. If you’re already thinking this is great, you’d rather try it right now, go ahead. It’s free to try Speechify.

Text-to-speech vs audiobooks. What’s the difference?

Audiobooks are generally single recorded pieces of audio that you purchase. You get the audio for a specific book. It’s like buying your favorite artist on vinyl. You play it and you get to listen to just that one album, vinyl crackle and all. The audio, most times, is a recording of either the author or a voice actor reading the text aloud. The speech output tends to be more crafted for that specific book. Text-to-speech on the other hand uses speech synthesis or artificial intelligence to scan text and then generate speech automatically. This allows you to buy or subscribe to the technology, not a single book or text. You aren’t limited to what can be read aloud. If text is digitized, it can be read. Every book in your book shelf (even that giant stack on your bedside table) can be converted into an audiobook. There are no limits.

How does AI text-to-speech technology work?

Beautifully. It generally works by installing an app like Speechify either on your device or as a browser extension. AI scans the words on the page and reads it out loud, without any lag. You can change the default voice to a custom voice, change accents, languages, and even increase or decrease the speaking rate. AI has made significant progress in synthesizing voices. It can pick up on formatted text and change tone accordingly. Gone are the days where the voices sounded robotic. Speechify is revolutionizing that. Once you install the TTS mobile app, you can easily convert text to speech from any website within your browser, read aloud your email, and more. If you install it as a browser extension, you can do just the same on your laptop. The web version is OS agnostic. Mac or Windows, no problem. Text-to-speech is rapidly gaining traction. Medium offers TTS as a service on their website and app to their millions of readers (yes, they use Speechify to power this). Other large businesses like the news media & entertainment industry are beginning to offer speech as a feature on their websites.

Can I use text-to-speech online or is it an app?

It is both. Text-to-speech is a technology. You simply install the app on your device or if you’d rather use it on your laptop, then install it as a browser extension on either Chrome or Safari and use it online. Adoption on Firefox and Microsoft browsers as far as the speech web application is yet low. Most apps convert text to audio in real time and reads the text aloud well as some allow you to download the audio files in various file formats. Try Speechify free on Android, iOS, Chrome, or Safari.

But, are the text-to-speech voices natural-sounding?

Yes. AI and machine learning continues to make significant strides. If your last experience with any text to speech is a year old, then things have change significantly since then. What’s even more impressive is that these advances span multiple languages apart from just English. Portuguese, Italian, and others can be converted real-time to a very human voice with native sounding accents.

Who should use text-to-speech?

There are limitless reasons and use cases for TTS. Children pick up so much from listening (ask any parent) and unlocking the number of (quality) words a child can listen to holds tremendous potential in their development. College students, teachers, professors, parents, professionals, productivity enthusiasts, and those that are challenged with reading can benefit greatly as well.

For children and e-learning

As children play, you could use TTS to read out their favorite book, or a school reading, or use it for more intentional times. With TTS, words are highlighted (think Karaoke) so your child could read and listen at the same time. This makes for greater retention as two senses are stimulated. The web pages you allow your children to read come alive.

For parents

Parents can live an exhausting life sometimes. Work and personal life clash and there’s just no time. Text-to-speech enables parents to get more done, read those work emails, and even the ones from their child’s school much quicker as they multi task. Parents can also turn their favorite book into an audiobook and have it read aloud on those long road trips. Great for parents homeschooling their children.

For college students & professionals

Working on your PhD? In law school? Simply scan your reading and have it read aloud up to 5x the speed. Get more productive, retain, and understand more in a shorter amount of time.

For professionals

Graduated law school? Passed the Bar? Writer, doctor, engineer, professor, or any profession that requires plenty of reading, TTS is a great tool to help simplify a productive life. For the professionals who travel a lot, read any document, email, or book. Listen as fast as you can. Crush it. The use-cases are limitless. Attorneys can read their case files much quicker. People in healthcare can listen much quicker and on the go. Teachers, editors, you name it. If your job requires you to read, text-to-speech can help.

For the hobbyists

Many people just want to unplug from a screen and listen to a great book. Text-to-speech is a fantastic way to turn any PDF, eBook, or a physical book, into an audiobook. You don’t have to rely on just audiobooks, have any text read aloud. Most subscriptions are relatively cheap on a per month basis.

For dyslexia and other disablities

Text-to-speech is great for those who face reading challenges such as dyslexia. Speechify, in fact, was founded to solve a very specific problem. Read Cliff’s story about how he, as a dyslexic reads 100 books a year! People with TBI, ADHD, dry eyes, or any other illness that makes reading difficult can benefit from converting tex into speech on the fly.

Text-to-speech technology for the enterprise

Lastly, text to speech can be used for businesses that want to offer a premium digital experience to their readers. Medium offers text-to-speech free to their millions of readers. Their readers are more engaged, and reading time isn’t relegated to eyes on a screen. Readers can now take it to go, turning every blog or article into a podcast. Your readers can enjoy your content even if their mobile device is in their pocket, bag, or purse. Deploying Speechify takes minutes. Automate your speech. The heavy lifting and backend processing is done on our servers. Imagine your visitors engaging with your content while grocery shopping, driving, or exercising. They don’t have to be locked in to a screen. Interested in the Speechify API or SDK? Contact us. Did this help? Did we miss anything? If you have any questions, follow us on our social media and tweet your questions at us or contact us. If you’d like to try Speechify, it’s free. Try it now. Speechify has high quality, natural sounding voices and a great user experience. Getting started is easy, create an account, install the free text to speech app or extension, choose your voice and click play. The natural-sounding speech, the user experience, and our customer experience makes us the #1 rated text reader app in the App Store.