James Farmer has shared an interesting idea of building a collection of audio “readings” of articles, and Stephen Downes has taken the idea and ran it as an online audio jukebox.

I’m not much of an avid reader of academic articles, so I let is slide into the “neat idea but no time to bother” category– but did have the same thought Todd at Big IDEA had — why not let a computer’s text to speech capability to the grunt work?

Sure computer voices are stilted, but surely better than my “um” laden streams, and who has time to sit and record? Knowing that Mac OSX has the ability built in to readily read any text, a little tap of the Google led me to VoiceBox, a $20 app that can use this built in ability to save a selection of “read” text to a .AIF file. And it offers control to change the pitch and the rate of the computer voices. Sweet.

But it gets better– VoiceBox has the ability to capture an RSS feed and read or save that! And you could, as the docs suggest, use their example AppleScripts to have this done on a regular basis. From the Realmac software site:

Download the latest news directly into Voice Box using xml technology. We have inluded links to lots of valuable sites. For example, as Voice Box is Applescript compatible you could write a script to download the news automatically everyday from your favourite website and have Voice Box read it out or save it as a sound file ready for transfer to your iPod.

I was hoping to play a bit more as this is the result of about 20 minutes of playing, but as a demo, I fed it the feed to James’ Incorporated Subversion blog. In demo mode, it only saves the first 20 seconds as a file, but I got a 560k .AIF file which was crunched to 132k .mp3 with iTunes.

James, I did the best fiddling I could with the “Fred” voice but there is just no aussie twang, but he does read your entry about wiki software… Here is James, (read by “Fred”) – “What Do I Want in a Wiki?”

Can it get better? Educators take note from the RealMac site:

Free for Schools
If you’re a teacher and require a copy of VoiceBox for your school, please contact us and we will be happy to supply you with a free copy.

What a deal!

The post "Why Not Let the Machines Read to Us?" was originally pulled charred and crispy from a smoky charred oven at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2004/06/why-not/) on June 11, 2004.