Most people today use Text To Speech (TTS) technology in their daily lives without thinking about it. Examples include - Map App or Virtual Assistants on SmartPhones, Navigation system in cars and Smart Home devices
The same technology allows VI users to read electronic content by listening, hence the phrase “Reading without Seeing”. TTS option has been widely available for English and other western languages for more than a decade. With proper Accessibility tools, people with Vision Impairment (VI) can be just as effective and productive as people with normal sight in most professional jobs, including banking, engineering and teaching.
TTS software for western languages has been available for PCs, Smartphones and Tablets for many years. Many of these devices now support at least one language for each country or region. As such Hindi TTS is available for Android, iOS and Windows 10 devices as an optional OS feature from Google, Apple and Microsoft respectively. Google also provides Bengali TTS for Android devices. It has taken many years to get this stage. As of 2018, Microsoft has only added Hindi TTS to Windows 10. TTS support for other Indic languages from the OS vendors is not anticipated anytime soon.
Children learn best in their native language. We cannot expect Visually Impaired children to first learn Hindi or English and then use the TTS software to read books, news articles, do homework in Hindi or English instead of their mother tongue spoken by their family and friends.
Hear2Read project fills this void. Using open source TTS technology, Hear2Read volunteers have released portable TTS software for the following Indic languages:
Work has started on Assamese, Malayalam and Odia.
Hear2Read Apps are completely free to use without any Ads or monetization of any kind. Thanks to the generosity of many volunteers and donors who have supported the project since 2013.
We are working on releasing the Windows Apps in Microsoft Windows store.
Hear2Read TTS Engine provides a background service to convert text to speech. It can be used by any TTS-enabled App to "Read" by listening. The most common Apps that use TTS engine are Screen Reading Apps or eBook readers. eBook readers allow navigation within a book by chapter, page number, or bookmark, and word searches. Some of these are described below.
Hear2Read Engine Apps include a demo screen to let users read short example text. The demo screen is a screen reading App.
Using Hear2Read TTS on Android devices requires installing the TTS Engine and one or more Indic TTS voice database using ADD VOICES button on the Engine App’s Home page.
Talkback for vision-impaired (VI) users: VI users always have Talkback on in order to be able to use Android devices with touch screen. To use Hear2Read TTS, please do the following:
Simple Reading for vision-impaired (VI) users: This free App was commissioned by the Daisy Consortium. It is an eBook reader that can read Daisy and ePub3 books.
@Voice Aloud Reader was originally designed for use by sighted users to read text content displayed by other Apps (such as web , email, TXT, DOC, DOCX, RTF files and eBooks). It can be used by VI users as well. It supports different ways to read depending on the content type – Android Share feature for web sites, open any file in any folder on the device, copy/paste, and “Open with” feature in other apps etc. Please see the User Guide or built-in Help for full details. It is available as Ad supported “Free” App or one can purchase Ad free version for a nominal price which varies from country to country.
Voice Dream Reader a commercial eBook reader that must be purchased.
Hear2Read team worked with Prof. Alan Black and his students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Prof. Black is a world renowned technologist in language processing. Hear2Read leveraged Festvox and Flite open source software developed over the last 25 years with contributions from researchers and developers around the world.
Note: Android supports 3rd party TTS software and has published documentation for software developers. Apple iOS does not support 3rd party TTS software.