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Reading and listening to DailyTech just got a little easier

It won't be too often that I post shameless self-promoting articles on DailyTech as top-tier stories, but if it was ever going to happen today's the day.

When DailyTech originally launched, it was always part of the site plan to include some form of audio-enabled content.  At first we attempted to use human readers. This proved too costly and too slow to create content accurately.

In 2006 we attempted the project a second time with AT&T's Text-to-Speech API. However, even at a mere 10 million page views per month, a moderate text-to-speech license ran in the five-figure range.  Not exorbitant, but certainly a hefty investment for something our readers might not even like.

Enter Odiogo.  The premise is simple: Odiogo takes an extended news feed from the content provider, runs the content against its text-to-speech software, and then republishes it as an XML feed.  This XML feed can be integrated into an RSS feed for a podcast, or directly into the article as a "play" button. 

Nobody will admit Odiogo is a replacement for human-read news -- yet.  The software is far from perfect when it comes to subtle pauses, tech jargon and the odd acronym.  But considering the difficult nuances of the English language, and the improvement of text-to-speech software in just the last two years, I'm pretty stoked about Odiogo and text-to-speech in the future.

Give DailyTech's Odiogo feed a try.  You can play audio directly from the website on the "listen now" button, or you can listen to rollups of the news via podcasts for iTunes and other MP3 players.  If you like (or don't like) what you hear, drop us a comment!


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Interesting
By Gnoad on 12/29/2007 12:32:53 PM , Rating: 3
It's amusing, and potentially useful, but I doubt I'll end up using this much. I tried listening to a few articles, and after that the voice was starting to irritate me. I think this kind of software is always getting better, but it still has a long way to go before it can replace humans.




RE: Interesting
By James Holden on 12/29/2007 12:34:06 PM , Rating: 5
I wonder if they have a sexy female voice ... that seems like it would do better in this crowd :) Maybe with a foreign accent too!


RE: Interesting
By tdawg on 12/29/2007 1:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
There used to be a morning show on a radio station here in Seattle that did this sort of thing with the news one morning. The female half of the show took local news and science articles and the like and read them in her best sexy, sultry voice, which was absolutely hilarious.


RE: Interesting
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/29/2007 1:38:20 PM , Rating: 2
Chicago's local cab company (Flash Cab) uses TTS for its reservation service. For some reason the female TTS voice sounds like it was ripped from a phone sex hotline or something ... I always get a chuckle out of it.


RE: Interesting
By tdawg on 12/29/2007 2:34:58 PM , Rating: 4
That's the voice she was doing the news in. I almost crashed my car listening to it. :)


RE: Interesting
By shadowofthesun on 12/31/2007 4:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
Both hands on the wheel, tdawg. ;)


RE: Interesting
By therealnickdanger on 12/31/2007 1:19:10 PM , Rating: 2
Sometimes just for fun, I change the voice in my car from English to French... she sounds so hot. Reminds me of the SNL skit involving the "Buick Mistress". I'm not sure if that was the exact title, but it was such a great skit.


RE: Interesting
By Spyvie on 12/31/2007 5:48:43 PM , Rating: 2
You could always download the trail version of Read Please, then highlight any text you want and have it read aloud in one of several male and female voices. I've been using it here and there for years, but it doesn't sound quite as good as Odiogo is sounding here...

http://www.readplease.com/english/downloads/

I've never tried MS Sam, it may be the same thing.


RE: Interesting
By MrDiSante on 12/29/2007 1:51:19 PM , Rating: 3
I think this is a fairly impressive achievement. My dad couldn't tell that it was a robot for the first paragraph or so. Compared with something like Microsoft Sam, this is a huge improvement.


RE: Interesting
By Cogman on 12/29/2007 7:44:46 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe its just me, but I thought it sounded exactly like Microsoft Sam. It is definitely a step back from AT&T's tts API.

On the other hand, I think it is a good addition to daily tech, and should benefit the blind and the lazy users :) Good Job those that made this work.


RE: Interesting
By Cogman on 12/29/2007 7:46:43 PM , Rating: 2
I take that back, only at low volumes (with load background noise) does is the computerized voice obvious. When I turned up the volume it was strangely less obvious (and sounded less like my beloved Sam)


RE: Interesting
By jtesoro on 12/30/2007 1:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
Now I wonder what will happen if this capability were applied to the comments and not just the articles. I don't even know what its supposed to say when it gets to LOL, w00t or STFU! :) <-- Yeah, and that smiley too!


RE: Interesting
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/30/2007 10:58:24 AM , Rating: 3
This technology will never be used for our comments. We do want some people to still read the site ;)


Underwhelming?
By ice456789 on 12/29/2007 12:12:06 PM , Rating: 3
So I clicked on the button to listen to the article and I got a message that said "Service not available yet". But I didn't pay anything for it so I guess I got my money's worth.




RE: Underwhelming?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/29/2007 12:18:33 PM , Rating: 2
It take's a couple minutes after an article is posted. It's working now.


RE: Underwhelming?
By TomZ on 12/29/2007 12:52:13 PM , Rating: 2
The delay might be something of an issue - seems like the other two new articles don't have audio available yet. Any idea what the actual delay time is? I suppose it's more than a couple of minutes. One of the articles was posted at 11:01am (CST?) which was about 50 minutes ago, still no audio. I don't know how accuate those timestamps are, though.


RE: Underwhelming?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/29/2007 1:09:01 PM , Rating: 2
It's supposed to be about a 10 minute delay, though we have the ability to produce the TSS on-demand from our content management system -- that hasn't been deployed yet though.

And yes, the timestamps on our articles are somewhat whimsical. It's a bad habit.


RE: Underwhelming?
By ice456789 on 12/29/2007 2:55:20 PM , Rating: 2
Now that it's working, I can say that I really am amazed. I was expecting the typical burping robot voice.

Johnny 5 is alive!


RE: Underwhelming?
By Some1ne on 12/29/2007 6:54:26 PM , Rating: 3
Works fine for me. It's not perfect, mostly because it lacks various subtle nuances that are part of real human speech (like for example, placing emphasis correctly on conceptually relevent terms within a sentence), but for a completely automated, synthetic voice, it's pretty damn impressive.


By BruceLeet on 12/29/2007 12:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
I can read/process information much faster, maybe add a speed button? Because at that speed I forgot what he said at the beginning of the sentence nearing the end of the sentence and it just doesn't work for me, plus news articles need to be "proof-read" especially on a site like this where much debating occurs, don't really see it being anything all that great, but thats just my onion :D

Ye I know I spelled opinion wrong, take it easy grammar nazi's




By JackBeQuick on 12/29/2007 12:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I think if you can read it, reading is faster and easier. This seems more geared to people who take their news on the go or want to listen to the site in the background.


By johnsonx on 12/29/2007 3:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Because at that speed I forgot what he said at the beginning of the sentence nearing the end of the sentence


A.D.D.?


By BruceLeet on 12/30/2007 10:36:13 AM , Rating: 3
No the narrator just speaks too slow, so what if I can process information much faster with more efficiency than most people, that doesn't sound like ADD to me.


By johnsonx on 12/31/2007 2:29:51 PM , Rating: 2
well, I'm just kidding around with you anyway, but my point was that you forgot what he said just a few seconds earlier, which does sound like ADD! Honestly though, yes I do see what you mean, it could be a little faster.


Pretty impressive
By mpc7488 on 12/29/2007 12:45:21 PM , Rating: 2
I thought it was quite good, the quality has definitely improved since I used Dragon years ago. I do find it amusing that the one word the engine has trouble pronouncing is 'Odiogo', they really need to get that fixed :)

I think the speed comment is a great one - I've taken online courses, and we always sped the video up to 1.4x or 2x. It's intelligible and gives the user the option to get content faster.




RE: Pretty impressive
By TomZ on 12/29/2007 12:55:16 PM , Rating: 2
Dragon is/was highly focused on speech-to-text, not text-to-speech. That's an entirely different problem.


RE: Pretty impressive
By noirsoft on 12/29/2007 5:56:13 PM , Rating: 2
When I played the article right now, it pronounced "Odiogo" like "Audio Go" which, I assume, is the intended pronunciation.


RE: Pretty impressive
By johnsonx on 12/31/2007 3:02:53 AM , Rating: 3
Not too sure about that - the pre-recorded female voice at the beginning pronounces it Oh-dio-Go. I presume that is a real person pronouncing it the company instructed her.


Nice
By James Holden on 12/29/2007 12:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
It did a pretty good job with this article. It seems to have problems with words that have multiple meanings, like when the guy says "produce" it's spoken as the meaning of vegetables not as in to manufacture something.

I suppose that will be corrected someday with some context sensitivity.

TTS came a long way since I used it last. This will definitely replace newsreaders someday.




RE: Nice
By JackBeQuick on 12/29/2007 12:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
Added to iTunes.

Ars Technica does it sometimes, and I think the premise is fantastic. Especially when I'm driving and I can't read the site but I still want to keep up to date.


RE: Nice
By Lazarus Dark on 12/30/2007 1:40:26 AM , Rating: 2
The only flaw I heard was it said "human-read" like "human-reed" instead of "human-red". Other than that it was pretty good.

The real problem though is that I read about two to three times faster than the voice. So... this makes it slower. I need news faster. I appreciate DT trying to integrate the latest features, but I just can't think of a use for this one. Then again, I have never found any use for podcasts either. Vidcasts can be usefull for demonstrating things visually, but I can always read faster than a podcast, not to mention easily skipping around to the parts I'm most interested in.


Found a slight problem
By HaZaRd2K6 on 12/29/2007 8:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
I was just about to leave another comment and clicked the side button on my mouse to go back a page (without commenting) and it started playing automatically without me clicking "Listen Now" and without popping up with a pause button.

Running Firefox 2.0.0.11 on Vista Business 32-bit. It's done it three times in a row =)

Hope that helps.




RE: Found a slight problem
By TomZ on 12/29/2007 9:23:25 PM , Rating: 2
It does the same thing in IE7.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/30/2007 10:59:31 AM , Rating: 2
I'll have this fixed ASAP.


Sounds terrific ! Best Txt to Speech yet
By DallasTexas on 12/30/2007 8:43:12 AM , Rating: 2
Wow,I am impressed. I often listen to translated text to speech on my iPOD, namely MIT Technology Review. This is much much better.
It would be very nice to hear Daily Tech in audio form on my podcast. I just hope you don't include the "comment" in here - please.




By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/30/2007 11:00:33 AM , Rating: 3
No,

We will not use this for comments.


awesome
By charlienail on 12/29/2007 12:57:47 PM , Rating: 2
i've recently done this for a few sources using the new voice in leopard, 'alex' (~600mb!) which along with the voice in this article have been improved enough for me to finally take text to my ipod in audio format. i've been using an applescript to run whatever text i have selected through the synthesizer then sync to ipod but clicking a button to add a podcast is even easier. it's great on the subway. who needs a display? and the best part is there's no advertising, yet.




RE: awesome
By ksherman on 12/29/2007 1:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
SHHHH!!!


Female voice?
By henrikfm on 12/29/2007 2:06:46 PM , Rating: 4
Is there an option to change the voice into a female one?




Time to crack down on proofreading?
By Bremen7000 on 12/29/2007 2:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
I'm impressed at how well it handles pauses with sentences; that seems to make them flow pretty well. Maybe now's a good time to crack down on how poorly you guys proofread things, since little typos really stand out when something pronounces them. (Case in point: absorbtion in the indium blog). Seriously, every blog has at least one error in it. If I can get through 10-page technical papers without any unfixed typos/sentence errors, you can get through a page article.

(Jump on me all you want. I enjoy the news, but I personally find that stuff distracting. And yes, Reuters/etc have the same problem, especially lately. Must be some kind of virus.)




By chusteczka on 12/30/2007 1:47:08 PM , Rating: 2
I completely agree with this.

The content of the articles on DailyTech has always been great. However, the proofreading has continually been substandard. The text-to-voice application certainly exemplifies the need for proper sentence structure.

As constructive criticism for Odiogo, it seems the pause between sentences is slightly too long.


Cool
By BigToque on 12/29/2007 1:06:47 PM , Rating: 2
It would be nice to have more websites use this type of technology.




Terrific!
By iVTec on 12/29/2007 1:13:32 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's just great!! :) Probably because i thought such an appliance wouldn't appear for some more years...Although i think it's a very nice feature,i don't think i'm going to use it much...I prefer reading the articles cause it's quickers,but this is useful for the blind and those who have trouble reading maybe...Moreover,it can prove a useful tool for learning how to pronounce words in English,since many of us (readers of Dailytech) do not have English as a native language. :)

Thumbs up!




I'm impressed!
By n7 on 12/29/2007 8:47:19 PM , Rating: 2
Though a bit of an annoying monotone after a while, this is a lot better than i expected.
Definitely need a deeper voice, or female voice.

Main drawback is that i have to actually concentrate on listening to gather what's being said, whereas i can read & comprehend the same in maybe 25% of the time.

I could see this being nice for use in the future on wifi in vehicles etc. though.




Great Addition
By sandytheguy on 12/29/2007 10:28:57 PM , Rating: 2
It works pretty well, I think it's a great addition to the site.




Great....but....
By swizeus on 12/29/2007 11:03:14 PM , Rating: 2
It's beyond amazing but as the article say, spelling will be the thing bugging.

"Daily Tech's" spelled "Daily tech ass" (oops...)

Gr8 Tech and helps visually impaired people, just need some perfections with the spelling




Not Bad
By AlexandertheBlue on 12/30/2007 12:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
I've definitely heard lots worse. However there is still room for quite a bit of improvement




rallip
By herrdoktor330 on 12/30/2007 5:32:28 PM , Rating: 2
I like... it's one small step for man, one giant leap for people who like tech news and is too busy to read it.

Now what would be a hoot is to have all of these fun comments turned into speech. Wouldn't that be rich?




Humans >>> Machines
By exanimas on 12/30/2007 7:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
You guys should get Rodney Reynolds to read all of your articles. It would sound slightly more humanthan this thing. Just a thought.

Reference: http://youtube.com/watch?v=No6m7eXPyZM (Strong language used)




Love it
By fatbaldandhappy on 12/31/2007 11:49:00 AM , Rating: 2
I've been reading daily tech for years and typically don't comment, but for this one I felt a hearty thank you was in order. As mentioned by several others, it's not perfect, but it is definitely usable and very helpful. I hope you keep it in place and maybe even expand its use. On behalf of lazy fat people everywhere I say THANK YOU!




where?
By Visual on 1/2/2008 8:02:47 AM , Rating: 2
Where is it? i don't see a "listen" button in any article, just the normal comment buttons




Good stuff
By Shoal07 on 1/3/2008 2:49:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not too useful while I sit at my computer (where I can read the article) but if we could get something like an RSS reader, with all my favorite feeds, + Odiogo, +something like a sat or radio station for the car (or an iPod, blah) I could listen to all the feeds I didn't get to read on my commute. Now that's an exciting idea.




By crystal clear on 12/29/2007 11:41:55 PM , Rating: 1
I am quite sure there are many here, who in high school/college/university have done courses in speed reading like I did.

During that time I invested a lot of time & effort in grasping & perfecting the techniques of speed reading.

It helped me a lot during my time at university & later at work even more.

Reading through those project reports & other similar/relevant stuff at management levels,spead reading was a time saving & a very effective tool.

Speed reading helps you anytime & anywhere from conventions to conferences to exhitions to board meetings to inflight reading material that you take along with you etc etc.

So its better to depend on yourself than rely on text to speech software.

Something things are done better the old fashioned way !

I am not against the idea that its there on D.T.good to have it around.

I think it would better D.T. introduces the "spelling check" like in words in Office 2007.

It helps when you are posting your comment in a hurry, it rectifies those typing errors etc.

Not everybody sit in front of their keyboard & monitors in those office cubes.

People like me use their laptops more than the desktop due to the fact, I could be at the airport boarding a flight or the hotel lobby or just anywhere outside the office.

Given the fact that in 2008 you will see MIDs & UMPCs & SSDs much cheaper & better with Intels new offerings.
The Menlow platform is comprised of the “Silverthorne” processor and the “Poulsbo” chipset, both being designed from the ground up for Mobile Internet Devices (MID) and Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs).

or the Santa Rosa refresh for notebooks.

Guys attending the CES should see it there.

Anyway those who prefer the text to speech software then enjoy it.




However
By BruceLeet on 12/30/07, Rating: -1
"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini











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