Many things are better said than read, but the best voice tech out there seems to be reserved for virtual assistants, not screen readers or automatically generated audiobooks. WellSaid wants to enable any creator to use quality synthetic speech instead of a human voice — perhaps even a synthetic version of themselves.
There’s been a series of major advances in voice synthesis over the last couple of years as neural network technology improves on the old highly manual approach. But Google, Apple and Amazon seem unwilling to make their great voice tech available for anything but chirps from your phone or home hub.
As soon as I heard about WaveNet, and later Tacotron, I tried to contact the team at Google to ask when they’d get to work producing natural-sounding audiobooks for everything on Google Books, or as a part of AMP, or make it an accessibility service, and so on. Never heard back. I considered this a lost opportunity, as there are many out there who need such a service.
So I was pleased to hear that WellSaid is taking on this market, after a fashion, anyway. The company is the first to launch from the Allen Institute for AI (AI2) incubator program announced back in 2017. They do take their time!