Years ago, I remember a fascinating alpha-geek moment. I had organized a peer-to-peer summit, and one of the people I’d invited was Kevin Lenzo, one of the founders of Festvox, the open source speech synthesis project and Cepstral, a speech synthesis company. One of the other attendees said to him, “Your voice sounds familiar.” When Kevin told him who he was, the developer said, “Oh, that’s it. I listen to your voice all the time when I pipe IRC channels to festvox so I can listen to them while I code.” (Kevin’s voice was the basis for one of Cepstral’s synthetic voices.)
Well, Allen Noren, who has had an interest in having our books and sites read aloud for years, has just rolled out speech synthesis on our sites and blogs via a partnership with a Swedish company called ReadSpeaker.
Allen talks more about the program on the O’Reilly FYI blog (a good place to keep up on O’Reilly product- and company-related news). But all you really need to know is pretty obvious: click on the “listen” button next to this entry, and a synthetic voice will read it to you. We’ve just rolled out this feature on Radar. Let us know what you think.
(P.S. A small note on Kevin. He was one of the inspirations for my original idea of the “alpha geek.” I kept running into him on so many interesting tracks to the future, that anything Kevin was interested in, I figured was worth paying attention to. In addition to being a pioneer in speech synthesis, he was the creator of a fascinating “infobot” that participated in the Perl IRC channel, one of the first people I heard about climbing on rooftops to set up homebrew WiFi antennas, and founder of the self-organized Yet Another Perl Conference… When I saw that Allen had put up this project with ReadSpeaker, I wondered why we’d never done it with Kevin. A missed opportunity from many years ago.)