Humans can only work with robots if they understand them. This is why natural sounding text to speech for robots is necessary. Read on to learn more about natural sounding voices and how ReadSpeaker’s products can help.
A Brief History of Robots
Automatons, or self-operating machines, have been mimicking humans for quite a while. In their early days, robots were designed to perform a specific task repeatedly. While robots date as far back as to the time of Leonardo da Vinci, the first modern industrial robot was Unimate. Unimate was hired by General Motors in 1961 to move hot metals, safeguarding humans from this dangerous task.
Since then, society’s interest in robots has shifted. Rather than manufacture mechanical devices that replace people, more recent trends are working on developing human-machine cooperation. According to a Brookings report, the future is focused on “what people and robots can do better, together.” This newer breed of robots could revolutionize our homes, medical industry, education, entertainment and more.
These robot-collaborators have been in pop culture for a long time. Think of Rosie the Robot, C3PO, or HAL 9000. These robot characters interact and help their human counterparts. They are part of the team — and in some cases, part of the family.
One thing that unites these mythical robots of the future? They all have quite natural-sounding voices.
Natural Sounding Voices for Robots
This is a no-brainer: in order to work with humans, humans must be able to understand robots. Not only must robots be able to “speak our language”, so to say, they must sound natural. In her book, The Robot: The Life Story of a Technology, Lisa Nocks emphasizes that natural-sounding speech is crucial, “it is essential for comfortable human-robot interaction”.
Until recently, robotic voices were anything but natural-sounding. For example, when Amazon first launched Kindle’s text-to-speech feature in 2009, a Slate critic complained, “Not once could I stand listening for more than about a minute… it pauses at unusual moments in the text, it mis-emphasizes parts of sentences, it can’t adjust its intonation when reading quotations, and it has a hell of a time pronouncing proper nouns.”
It’s hard to fool us humans. According to a study, children as young as 4 can differentiate a “robotic-sounding” voice from a “natural-sounding” voice. Simply put, non-natural speech is off-putting. Consumers won’t use it, even if the robots speak clearly. As Amazon discovered with earlier Kindle text-to-speech releases, it is a feature that will go unused.
So, it comes as no surprise that companies are investing in natural-sounding text-to-speech solutions for their robots and robotic devices.
Amazon, for one, is offering up to $100 million in venture capital funding for voice technology innovation. Google has invested undisclosed amounts, acquiring more than a handful of speech synthesis companies and start-ups. Although Apple has kept mum, Silicon Valley rumors that the company spent between $150 to $250 million on the natural-sounding Siri. Big business is willing to put their money where their “mouth” is, or in this case, the most cutting-edge text-to-speech technology is.
ReadSpeaker Text to Speech Solutions for Robots
However, natural-sounding text-to-speech does not necessarily require crippling amounts of capital. With ReadSpeaker TTS solutions for robotics, too, humans, robots, and avatars can easily interact. ReadSpeaker’s TTS Embedded SDK is the optimal solution, equipping developers with the tools to create the finest embedded speech applications, from mobile devices to any kind of gadget imaginable.
How It Works
Many robots and robotic products use embedded devices. Loosely defined, an embedded device is an object with a special-purpose computing system. This system “lives” within the object and may or may not be able to connect to the internet. Common examples of embedded devices include ATMs, routers and cell phones, but they have broad use in consumer, commercial, automotive, industrial and healthcare markets. Because embedded devices run on unique operating systems, are confined by limited storage and low amounts of processing power, developers have struggled to find text-to-speech engines that are top of the line, but also compatible.
ReadSpeaker’s TTS Embedded SDK is the answer to this struggle.
The software development kit, or SDK, is a set of tools that allows app creation. ReadSpeaker’s TTS Embedded SDK gives developers the power to seamlessly plug the text-to-speech engine into a device, custom app or robot.
Why use ReadSpeaker’s TTS Embedded SDK?
- It’s natural-sounding. The importance of natural-sounding robots cannot be overstated. In many cases, consumers completely avoid products that feature robotic-sounding voices. ReadSpeaker works with professional voice actors and records approximately 20,000 sentences in each language in order to nail down regional tongue-twisters, unusual pronunciations and cover the range of natural expression within a language.
- It’s constantly evolving. Implementing ReadSpeaker TTS Embedded SDK saves developers time, money and resources that can be better spent toward fine-tuning the specific tasks of a robot. In addition, ReadSpeaker is constantly working to improve and expand their capabilities. This means robots will, too.
- It’s global. ReadSpeaker is a leader in global voices, offering more than 50 languages and over 200 voices. This could launch a robot to the world market and considerably increase profits.
- ReadSpeaker provides custom development. Not all robots are created equal and text-to-speech needs differ from company to company. For this reason, ReadSpeaker offers custom development to support the distinct needs of business and technology.
If you’d like to learn more, contact ReadSpeaker today!