[Bookreader] [IAEP] Text to Speech readers for XO

Gregor Kervina gregor.kervina at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 06:41:21 EST 2009

Hi Mike,

Great to have you here!
Is DAISY designed to read just epub books on XO or can it be also programmed
to read internet sites, pdf's of any other text that is copyed on clipboard
for example? What voices does it use and where can we listen to them?

Does anybody know who is responsible for writing user manual and help files
for XO?
When TTS capability will be developed it is very important to communicate
its potential use to end user.

Example for possible user manual (it is important to mention TTS capability
at the beginning, not somewhere among advanced options):
*How can I read a book on XO?

There are two ways to read the books on XO:

1. ... describes a classical way of reading ...

2. In second way you can just listen to book - XO will read the book for you
with his text to speech capabilities. ... This second way is not only for
people with disabilities but everyone can use it to read the book without
staring in display all the time. You can also set the reading speed and
reading voice and it is important to know that in the beginning the
comprehendable reading speed will be slow but with some practice you will be
able to comprehend higher speeds of reading of 300 words per minute or even
500 words per minute for non complicated texts. In this way you could read
many books with minimal effort. Click here to learn more.

You must also know that every person is different - some are better auditory
learners, and some are better visual learners, but in the end everyone will
find his own favorite reading habit.

*Thanks to everyone! *


On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 11:50 PM, Mike McCabe <mccabe at archive.org> wrote:

> Hi all -
> I'm working on creating DAISY (and epub) books for the Archive, and I'm
> very happy to answer any questions.  DAISY and epub books have many
> similarities.
> Mike
> Sayamindu Dasgupta wrote:
>> The Internet Archive has started to distribute books as DAISY
>> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DAISY_Digital_Talking_Book), something
>> we should definitely take a look at. We might also consider leveraging
>> the GNOME accessibility framework to provide book-reading features for
>> Epubs and PDFs in Read - it may be tricky, but the end results would
>> be worth it.
>> Thanks,
>> Sayamindu
>> On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 5:34 AM, Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Bumping up this recent thread on the bookreader list about
>>> text-to-speech.
>>> Mike and Gregor, in case you haven't seen what's currently possible:
>>> I believe James S's Read Etexts uses speech-dispatcher to read selected
>>> text. Aleksey and others may have done further work with espeak...  I've
>>> included some old threads from the Sugar list this past spring below.
>>> SJ
>>> On Thu, Oct 29, Mike McCabe <mccabe at archive.org> wrote:
>>> I also think this is a great idea.  I've worked with several
>>> text-to-speech readers recently, as part of my effort to make the
>>> Internet Archive books available to print disabled people.
>>> They're very useful, and I think that this mode of reading could be of
>>> use to a very broad range of users.  I suspect we'll see more of it soon.
>>> I'm also curious to hear about specific experiences with
>>> linux-compatible free TTS, as we may be producing audio books with this
>>> to work with the new Library of Congress audio players.
>>> Best regards -
>>> Mike
>>> == [1] old note from James Simmons ==
>>> ( in repsponse to this speech-synthesis summer of code proposal:
>>> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/speech-synthesis )
>>> Chirag,
>>> Since you have been working with Aleksey Lim you probably know about
>>> text to speech with highlighting in Read Etexts.  I wrote the original
>>> TTS code that used speech-dispatcher with some assistance from Hemant
>>> Goyal and the folks on the speech-dispatcher project.  Aleksey
>>> refactored my code so it could work with either speech-dispatcher or his
>>> own gstreamer espeak plugin.  Not only does his plugin need no
>>> configuration to work, it also does a LOT better in producing timely
>>> callbacks as it reads each word.
>>> As you point out in your proposal, highlighting the word as it is spoken
>>> is a big part of the benefit of what you're proposing.  If all you
>>> wanted to do was capture some highlighted text in the clipboard and have
>>> it spoken in a voice you can configure in a control panel, that would be
>>> easy, even trivial.  It's the highlighting that's difficult.  When I
>>> added speech to Read Etexts I deliberately tried for the simplest
>>> approach that would get the job done.  It reads only the current page.
>>> It always starts either at the first word on the page, or if speech has
>>> been paused, it resumes with the last word spoken.  You can't choose the
>>> word to start on.  The Activity itself receives the callbacks as each
>>> word is spoken and takes care of doing the highlight and scrolling the
>>> textarea so the highlighted word stays on the screen.
>>> If I had to write a facility that did what Read Etexts does outside of
>>> the Activity I wouldn't know how to do it.  It seems to me that
>>> highlighting is best done by the Activity itself.  I can't deny that it
>>> would be useful to have all this work done as you have described without
>>> the Activity knowing anything about it, but it doesn't seem feasible.
>>> You'd have to have something that could work with gtk textareas, the
>>> evince component Read uses, Abiword, and everything else that came along.
>>> Another thing you'd have to deal with is PDFs composed of scanned in
>>> book pages.  There are a lot of these around (the Internet Archive is
>>> full of them) and somehow the kid trying to select words on a scanned in
>>> page would have to be clued in that these words are not selectable.
>>> I suppose you could make an Activity that grabbed whatever text was in
>>> the clipboard, displayed it in a textarea, and highlighted the words in
>>> that textarea as it spoke them.  I'm pretty sure that wasn't what you
>>> had in mind.
>>> Splitting sentences into separate words will be a challenge.  I just use
>>> spaces as delimiters and filter out characters like asterisks, vertical
>>> bars, etc.  That works OK for English but not for other languages.  If I
>>> wanted Read Etexts to do highlighting on the Bhagavad-Gita in the
>>> original
>>> Sanskrit it wouldn't work.  Even in English I get tripped up by double
>>> hyphens (--).  It would be nice if Gutenberg etexts put spaces around
>>> double
>>> hyphens but they don't.
>>> It looks like you've picked a challenging project, and I would love to be
>>> proven wrong about everything I've mentioned here.  Good luck with this,
>>> James Simmons
>>> == 2: SynPhony and reading assistance ==
>>> On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 12:48 PM, Carol Farlow Lerche <cafl at msbit.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> I'd like to call your attention again to SynPhony.  We are close to a
>>>> base
>>>> release (probably this week) of a 44,000 word English word database that
>>>> has
>>>> a very rich array of information helpful to the teaching of English,
>>>> especially reading.  A 10,000 word Spanish lexicon and 50000 word German
>>>> one
>>>> will follow. Norbert Rennert who compiled these, would like very much to
>>>> work with other language experts to extend this effort to other
>>>> languages.
>>>> Some highlights of the English lexicon:  screened from the CMU Sphynx
>>>> corpus
>>>> for accessibility to children, each word entry has frequency data from
>>>> analysis with respect to a large corpus of text merged in, phoneme
>>>> breakdown
>>>> (used by reading curricula to decide the order in which words should be
>>>> introduced or deemed decodable), etymology, semantic domain
>>>> (categorization), IPA coding, syllabification and stress marking.
>>>> The second release will merge in many images, though we don't expect to
>>>> have a complete image-to-word mapping without a volunteer effort.   We
>>>> plan
>>>> to create an API and a way to define a curriculum sequence for word
>>>> groups
>>>> once the basic database is released, to allow integration of the word
>>>> bank
>>>> across all the activities that are literacy related, as well as create
>>>> more.  We also hope to use the word bank to score texts for reading
>>>> level
>>>> and assist in creation of simplified version of extant texts suitable
>>>> for
>>>> use by emergent readers.  Please read our design documents at the above
>>>> site.
>>>> On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 2:02 AM, Tomeu Vizoso <tomeu at sugarlabs.org>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Aleksey has started a very interesting new path:
>>>>> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/sugar-devel/2009-February/011470.html
>>>  Gregor Kervina wrote:
>>>>> Hi Sayamindu,
>>>>> thanks for quick reply!
>>>>> There is a lot of text to speech software out there - I use
>>>>> http://www.bytecool.com/coolspch.htm that you can try trial and
>>>>> download
>>>>> additional voices, just to get a feeling, but it is not free and not
>>>>> for
>>>>> linux. Many other programs are more complex and complicated and some of
>>>>> them use very complex voice engines that in my opinion doesn't sound
>>>>> very good. (I use Mary voice with cool speech)
>>>>> OK I spent some time to find all TTS software that is free for linux
>>>>> and
>>>>> here are some links:
>>>>> http://linux-sound.org/speech.html
>>>>> http://linuxhelp.blogspot.com/2006/01/festival-text-to-speech-synthesis.html
>>>>> http://larswiki.atrc.utoronto.ca/wiki/Software  - see the links under
>>>>> Speech section
>>>>> http://www.xenocafe.com/tutorials/php/festival_text_to_speech/index.php
>>>>> http://www.wikihow.com/Convert-Text-to-Speech-on-Linux
>>>>> http://www.cstr.ed.ac.uk/projects/festival/
>>>>> http://www.cstr.ed.ac.uk/projects/festival/onlinedemo.html - listen to
>>>>> some demo voices
>>>>> http://sourceforge.net/projects/dhvani/ - this one not english
>>>>> http://sourceforge.net/projects/tts-cubed/
>>>>> http://www.speech.cs.cmu.edu/hephaestus.html - click the links in
>>>>> Speech
>>>>> Synthesis section
>>>>> http://www.speech.cs.cmu.edu/comp.speech/Section5/Synth/rsynth.html
>>>>> http://www.linux.com/archive/feature/122197 - two readers - plug-ins
>>>>> for
>>>>> firefox.
>>>>> I can not test them because I'm not a linux user. Maybe you can modify
>>>>> some of these software (probably Festival) for more user friendly
>>>>> reading and maybe program a specific button on XO keyboard that will
>>>>> automatically read the selected text no matter what program is used for
>>>>> opening the text.
>>>>> Judging from google search result for DTBooks, this technology is not
>>>>> spread at all. The other problem is that it uses somtimes recorded
>>>>> audio
>>>>> and the size of that is too large for XO... I think the most important
>>>>> is that TTS works with reader that will open 1.6M e-books from internet
>>>>> archive
>>>>> <
>>>>> http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2009/10/24/internet-archive-opens-1-6-million-e-books-to-olpc-laptops/
>>>>> >(are
>>>>> you in this team?).
>>>>> Also one important thing is to add cheap headphones with laptop so
>>>>> children could listen to reading without desturbing others and in the
>>>>> noisy environments ... another advantage of audio reading is much
>>>>> longer
>>>>> battery life because you can turn off LCD monitor and audio alone does
>>>>> not consume much energy.
>>>>> Let me know what you think.
>>>>> All the best,
>>>>> Gregor
>>>>> On Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 4:08 PM, Sayamindu Dasgupta <
>>>>> sayamindu at gmail.com
>>>>> <mailto:sayamindu at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>    Hi Gregor,
>>>>>    Thanks a lot for jumping in :-)
>>>>>    On Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 2:38 AM, Gregor Kervina
>>>>>    <gregor.kervina at gmail.com <mailto:gregor.kervina at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>     > Dear Sayamindu Dasgupta, SJ Klein and other members of this list,
>>>>>     >
>>>>>     > I'm a student of electrical engineering from Europe and would
>>>>>    like to share
>>>>>     > with you my very positive experience with text to speech
>>>>>    technology that can
>>>>>     > in my opinion significantly increase the educational potential of
>>>>>    XO if used
>>>>>     > in the right way.
>>>>>     >
>>>>>     > For the past 12 years (since I was 15 years old) I'm daily
>>>>>    learning from
>>>>>     > e-books and internet using text to speech software. I know this
>>>>>    software is
>>>>>     > unpopular in developed world, many people don't even know that it
>>>>>    exists. On
>>>>>     > the other hand many people (including me) don't like reading long
>>>>>    texts on
>>>>>     > the LCD screens - that's why e-books are also not very popular.
>>>>>     >
>>>>>     > But unlike my friends I read 50+ e-books every ear and also daily
>>>>>    news on
>>>>>     > the internet - I just select the text, copy it, and CoolSpeech
>>>>>    software
>>>>>     > (using Mary voice) reads me all the text with speeds 300 to 500
>>>>>    words per
>>>>>     > minute. In this way I can browse other sites or look at photos or
>>>>>    just lay
>>>>>     > down and listen while my laptop is reading to me.
>>>>>     > Other people don't understand what I'm reading because it is too
>>>>>    fast for
>>>>>     > them but it can be learned quickly with slower speeds at
>>>>> beginning.
>>>>>     >
>>>>>     > I think XO laptops should definitely have such software
>>>>>    pre-installed and a
>>>>>     > video introduction how to use it and what reading speeds can they
>>>>>    expect
>>>>>     > after some time of practicing.
>>>>>     > It is also ideal for children with poor eye sight.
>>>>>     >
>>>>>    This sounds awesome. Could you let us know if the text to speech
>>>>>    software you have in mind is free/opensource and if it works on
>>>>> Linux
>>>>>    ?
>>>>>    I am also looking at DTBooks specifications for digital talking
>>>>> books
>>>>>    - do you know how useful/widespread this technology is ?
>>>>>    Thanks,
>>>>>    Sayamindu
>>>>>    --
>>>>>    Sayamindu Dasgupta
>>>>>    [http://sayamindu.randomink.org/ramblings]
>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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