2024: A Quarter Century of Leadership in Voice Technology

Amy Foxwell, Marketing Director NA and EMEA, ReadspeakerLondon (UK), June 2024 - ReadSpeaker, a global pioneer in voice technology, has announced its 25th anniversary this year. For a quarter century, ReadSpeaker has been committed to providing cutting-edge text-to-speech solutions to enhance accessibility and user experience worldwide. ReadSpeaker has consistently pushed the boundaries of innovation in speech synthesis, enabling millions of people around the world to consume written content audibly and effectively. This year marks a significant milestone in ReadSpeaker's journey, showcasing its ongoing commitment to accessibility, inclusion, and technological excellence. Amy Foxwell, Marketing Director NA and EMEA - Education and Publishing, reflects this area and the future vision for CHECK.point eLearning.

In the 25 years since ReadSpeaker's appearance on the market, what development and changes have taken place in the technology that converts text into speech?

Amy Foxwell: The past 25 years have witnessed remarkable advancements in text-to-speech (TTS) technology, transforming it from robotic and monotonous voices to incredibly natural and expressive speech.

ReadSpeaker's early TTS systems relied on concatenative synthesis, stringing together pre-recorded speech fragments. While innovative at the time, this produces rather unnatural-sounding speech. The introduction of statistical parametric synthesis improved the quality, but it was the development that was done using neural TTS that revolutionized our voices.

Neural TTS, powered by deep learning algorithms, allows us to create highly natural and human-like voices. These models learn the nuances of human speech and prosody, including intonation, rhythm, and even emotions, leading to a more engaging and immersive listening experience.

Furthermore, advancements in voice cloning and customization allow our customers to create personalized voices, or replicate an important figure or celebrity, such as the custom voice ReadSpeaker created for Sonos with the actor Giancarlo Esposito.

TTS technology has also become more accessible and affordable, allowing us to combine it with our online tools. This makes it available to more industries and a wider audience, while the smaller footprint has significantly broadened the applications of TTS technology.

ReadSpeaker now plays a crucial role in accessibility tools for visually impaired individuals, enhances user experiences in virtual assistants and smart devices, and finds extensive use in audiobooks, eLearning platforms, and entertainment.


How does TTS improve accessibility to learning content?

Amy Foxwell: ReadSpeaker's text-to-speech technology and learning tools significantly improve accessibility for learning content by transforming written text into spoken words, catering to diverse learning styles and abilities.

For individuals with visual impairments, dyslexia, multiple languages, or other reading difficulties, TTS allows them to access and comprehend information that would otherwise be inaccessible. They can listen to textbooks, articles, or online resources instead of relying solely on reading, making learning more inclusive.

TTS also benefits all learners by providing them with another way to consume content. They can convert written materials into audio formats, making it easier to absorb information while commuting, exercising, or engaging in other activities.

Furthermore, TTS can aid language learners by providing correct pronunciation and intonation models. It can also help those with attention-deficit disorders by breaking down complex information into manageable audio chunks.

Combined with voice-enhanced learning and focus reading and writing tools, and LMS plug ins, TTS supports all types of learners, from primary school to corporate training and correctional institutes.

Overall, ReadSpeaker's TTS bridges the gap between content and learners, promoting a more equitable and effective learning environment. By offering flexibility and catering to diverse needs, TTS empowers individuals to overcome barriers and access knowledge in ways that best suit their learning styles.


Which learning areas have particularly benefitted from the deployment of text to speech, and in which use cases has it demonstrated its value?

Amy Foxwell: ReadSpeaker's TTS technology particularly benefits literacy development, those with learning disabilities, STEM education, and language learning.

For literacy development, TTS supports struggling readers, dyslexic students, and those with learning disabilities. It enables them to access grade-level texts independently, improving reading fluency and comprehension. Additionally, TTS with synchronized highlighting helps students connect written and spoken words, reinforcing phonics and decoding skills.

In STEM subjects, TTS aids comprehension of complex concepts and technical terminology. Students can listen to explanations of mathematical formulas, scientific principles, or engineering designs, allowing for better understanding and retention. TTS also supports language learners in STEM fields by providing audio support alongside visual materials.

In language learning, TTS aids pronunciation practice, vocabulary acquisition, and comprehension of foreign texts. Language learners can listen to native speakers, adjust playback speed, and repeat difficult passages, improving their listening and speaking skills. Combined with its extensive translation tools, ReadSpeaker is also a support for immigrant learners and their families by providing language support outside the classroom.


Has the podcast scene's upswing promoted energy in the development of text-to-speech technology?

Amy Foxwell: The growing popularity of podcasts has indirectly promoted energy in the use of text-to-speech (TTS) technology. While podcasts primarily rely on recorded human voices, their popularity has increased demand for audio content consumption. We have seen that this has spurred interest in ReadSpeaker's voice generation tools for various reasons.

Accessibility - Podcasts often lack transcripts, limiting access for people with hearing impairments. TTS can convert transcripts into audio, making podcasts more inclusive.

Efficiency - Content creators can use TTS to quickly generate audio versions of articles, blog posts, or social media content, expanding their reach beyond text-based platforms.

Personalization - TTS allows listeners to customize audio experiences by adjusting voice, speed, and accent, catering to individual preferences.

Automation - Podcast producers can leverage TTS for tasks like generating introductions, transitions, or advertisements, saving time and resources.

The increased demand for audio content has undoubtedly created a fertile ground for voice generation. As our technology continues to develop in terms of naturalness and expressiveness, it will play a more significant role in the podcast ecosystem, making it accessible to a broader audience and empowering content creators with new tools and possibilities.

Will artificial intelligence also impact this area of technology? What direction do you think the development will take?

Amy Foxwell: ReadSpeaker is using ethical artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize text-to-speech (TTS) technology in several ways.

Our AI-powered TTS models continue to improve, producing even more human-like voices with nuanced intonations, emotions, and accents. This makes our TTS output indistinguishable from human speech, enhancing user experience and immersion. ReadSpeaker's TTS systems are becoming more intelligent, understanding the meaning and intent behind text, and generating speech that conveys emotions, humor, and sarcasm accurately. This will make TTS interactions more dynamic and humanlike.

We are also using AI to enable real-time customization of TTS voices based on our customers' preferences, context, and content. This can create voices that match their brand values and topics, or even mimic the voices of celebrities or important figures, making TTS interactions more personal, engaging, and brand focused.

AI is also allowing us to break down language barriers by enabling us to create voices seamlessly across multiple languages.

As TTS becomes more sophisticated, ReadSpeaker takes the societal implications very seriously. We pay close attention to the ethical considerations of voice generation like voice cloning, deepfakes, and potential misuse. Our development focuses on ensuring responsible use of AI in TTS technology while maximizing its positive impact for our customers.

AI is driving ReadSpeaker's TTS towards greater naturalness, personalization, and accessibility, transforming how we interact with digital information and opening up new possibilities for communication, education, and entertainment.