Sunday, November 11, 2007

Machine men

I know there are several visitors and contributors here who also are frequent listeners to audiobooks, so you might be interested in It is a project where people volunteer to read and record books in the public domain. The quality of the readings varies of course, but I found Thoreau's "Walden", read by Gord Mackenzie, to be very good.

I've been evaluating a few different speech synthesis systems lately, for the purpose to have articles read to me while I am on the go. I tried this a few years ago, but the systems available to me then failed to perform well. Sounded like Plåt-Niklas (Tin-Niklas, a robot from the children's books of "Grodan Boll").

I think I've found a working solution now with the voice "Peter", a distinguished british gentleman from Acapela Group, used in the application Ghostreader for Mac OS X. I haven't tried the new, supposedly very good, voice that comes with Mac OS X "Leopard" (10.5), but I don't think it or any other commercially available system (for decent money) can match the one under development I was demoed some time ago, which could read poetry better than some poets... It uses AI to try to figure out what it is reading and adjusts tone, speed and phrasing accordingly. We ran the script for "Pulp Fiction" through it and after a while it started to sound pretty pissed off! :)

Development of complex things was so much faster in 1927... (From Fritz Lang's "Metropolis")

Until that speech synthesis is released one can always listen to snippets of Tove Jansson read by Plåt-Niklas' swedish-speaking finnish cousin... ;)

(Listening to while posting: Noisy computer fans)


LS said...

I love anyone that remembers Grodan Boll.

O.K. said...

No comments on Peter's objective observation? ;)