Reading without Seeing

Advances in computing technologies have opened new opportunities for the vision-impaired population. They can be just as effective and productive as people with normal sight in many professional jobs, including banking, engineering and teaching. The enabling technology is Text To Speech (TTS) software that allows people to read electronic content by listening, hence the phrase “Reading without Seeing”.

Advances in computing technologies have opened new opportunities for the vision-impaired population. They can be just as effective and productive as people with normal sight in many professional jobs, including banking, engineering and teaching. The enabling technology is Text To Speech (TTS) software that allows people to read electronic content by listening, hence the phrase “Reading without Seeing”.

In PCs, tablets & smartphones, TTS software is the basis of Accessibility Service for vision-impaired users. On Android devices, this service is called Talkback . As of now, Hindi and Bengali are the only Indian language supported by Android TTS.

Fortunately, Android allows software developers to add TTS for additional languages. We have used this feature to extend TTS languages supported by Android. We worked with Prof. Alan Black and his students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Prof. Black is a world renowned technologist in language processing. We leveraged Festvox and Flite open source software developed over the last 20 years with contributions from researchers and developers around the world.

Tamil TTS, the first App, was released on August 2, 2016. We plan to release additional Apps for Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi and Telugu in the near future. You can experience the prototype TTS for these languages on the Demo page.

You can download the CMU Flite 3.0 Android App for the prototype TTS for Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu. Four out of five people in India speak one of those eight languages.

The TTS software can be used in a variety of ways by sighted and vision-impaired users:

  • Talkback Accessibility Service for vision-impaired users.
  • @Voice Aloud Reader for use by sighted populations to read on screen text content from other Android apps, e.g. web pages, news articles email, TXT, PDF, DOC, DOCX, RTF, and eBooks
  • eBook readers that allow navigation within a book by chapter, page number, or bookmark, and word searches. Commonly used ebook readers by vision-impaired users include Go Read, and Voice Dream Reader.