Text to speech fun

One of the first speech synthesizers that I ever used was AskSam for the Commodore 64. You would type in words or phoenetically spell things and this representation of the human head would repeat it. It was both advanced and primitive for it’s time. My friend Mike & I would sit there and constantly try to make it say curse words to one another.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I encountered Ananova (http://www.ananova.com). Ananova is a news service that came out in 2000 and featured a computer generated newscaster that would read the news. I didn’t get to play around with it to make it say things but I was completely fascinated by this virtual broadcaster that provided audio representation of the written stories.
[youtube width=”325″ height=”265″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek-g5A0YTkw[/youtube]

As recently as 2007 Angela and I found a way to use computers to help us argue without us uttering a single word to one another. This was our epic geek battle using online dictionaries that had audio components and we would find insults and play them out loud to annoy each other.

Earlier this week I was at home beating the crap out of my computer. I was waiting for code to compile, video to finish rendering and Photoshop to finally open a 2GB image. So what could I do while I waited for all of this to complete? Why, find a text to speech synthesizer, of course!

I’ve been playing with the website IVONA – http://www.ivona.com/. Aside from the curse words that Mike and I had so gleefully dropped into AskSam so many decades ago I started toying with the idea of making it say phrases in different voices within the 200 character limit. One of my first was the phrase

“wuts up my ninjyas! Can I get a whoop whoop? Puzzy in duh hizz outs. All the people in the back say Woah. Put your hands up in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. Peace in the middle east”

You put that in (minus the quotes) and then press the ‘Read’ button and PRESTO!

Then I started taking it a little step further. I started putting in rap lyrics like “I’m gonna knock you out! Mama said knock you out! Breakdown!”. Then I started on song lyrics. Angela finally yelled at me when I made it sing the chorus to ‘Karma Chameleon’. I even started to Rick Roll myself.

Finally, I thought I’d start taking the high brow approach. I started thinking of that it would be interesting to hear poems read by this thing so I went to my friend Deborah’s 32 Poems website. Slowly but surely I’m working my way through phonetics so that words sound the way they’re supposed to. Granted, there are no real dramatic pauses or much voice intonation but I do feel that it does lend itself to some pretty creepy moments.

Hey, I’m easily amused.