Searching for synthetic voices for reading out text via Text-To-Speech (TTS) or speech synthesis systems found a Scottish company called CereProc. For a number of years they have been providing voices for desktop computers and now they have released versions that work on the Android platform for tablets and some of the newer and higher specifications of smartphones. This technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and although not perfect and pronunciation may be a bit off for some words, it’s certainly improving over time and may be an option for anyone wishing to have a device speak on your behalf.
There are some limitations like the hardware volume of the device will limit how loud the spoken sound may be which might not be loud enough in busy environments.
I’ve recorded examples of the synthetic speech that can be used on Android see the demo at the end of this post.
Tech note: In my tests I’m using a Google Nexus 7 tablet which you can currently buy for around £200.
- Go to Settings
- Go down to the System section
- Choose Accessibility
- Choose Text-to-speech output
- Heather Scottish TTS Voice (Female, Scottish, Paid)
- Kirsty Scottish TTS Voice (Female, Scottish, Paid)
- Stuart Scottish TTS Voice(Male, Scottish, Paid)
- Idyacy Dodo Glasgow TTS Voice (Male, Scottish, Glasgow, Free)
- CereProc voices for Android (full list)
N.B. The way the Glasgow voice is presented on the Play store it seems to be intended as a “jokey” example. This is a pity and don’t let that put you off as it does do an surprisingly good job of pronouncing in the Glasgow Scots dialect. In our example of Pros and cons of autism alert cards and travel cards one point raised was
“…With synthetic speech it’s important that the ‘voice’ shouldn’t lead to the person being ridiculed in public…”
Maybe more middle-class people might find the Idyacy Dodo Glasgow voice humorous but if you come from a more working-class area of Glasgow using some of the ‘posher’ Scottish voices like Stuart might make you the odd one out and possibly lead to mockery. So a lot depends on who you are surrounded by and the situation. Having the ability to switch between formal/informal voices easily could be an advantage in e.g. the workplace or interview situations vs. at home.
On Android there is a device-wide “TalkBack” option which is really intended for blind or low vision users – this will help navigate the device by reading out app names or notifications etc. However, Android doesn’t quite seem to be at the point where any text within any app can be dictated, it depends on whether the app developers have added support for it. So to really make use of installed voices you need to look for apps that support text to speech.
Audio recording from the output of the tablet device speaking some sample text using CereProc Scottish Voices for Android [MP3].
See also How to…show a banner of text or speak short phrases using Android (bus journey example)