Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Text-to-Speech App Now Features Children's Voices


For the first time, children who cannot speak or who have speech impairments and use the text-to-speech app Proloquo2Go will sound a little more like how they might, if they could talk.
The app, for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, allows children to tap words and icons and form sentences that the devices read aloud. Although about 60 percent of the app's user base has been children about 12 and younger, the voices provided by the app were those of adults. Other products have offered high-pitched versions of adult voices, or some that sounded like cartoon characters. This is believed to be the first using real children's voices.
But using kids' voices has been impractical: It requires finding children who can spend hours in the studio recording words and phrases, children whose accents aren't too regional, whose voices sound pleasant, and in the case of the British version, not too posh, said David Niemeijer, founder and chief executive officer of AssistiveWare, which sells his creation. Adults who are trained voice artists are simply easier to find and work with.
He said there was one driving force behind the addition of children's voices to his popular product, which has been downloaded tens of thousands of times. The children who use it, many of whom have disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, deafness, and cerebral palsy, already stand out.
When the device starts speaking "and the wrong voice comes from it, people might focus more on that, or think 'That's weird,' instead of what they're trying to say," he said.
Read more of Nirvi Shah's On Special Education article HERE.
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