Readers with visual impairments, dyslexia, and other print disabilities need an array of tools and services to make text more accessible.
For reading online content, one solution is SoundGecko, a free text-to-audio transcribing service that converts web articles into MP3 files readers can listen to on their computer, mobile device, or MP3 player.
The service, developed by Melbourne-based 121cast, is similar to RoboBraille, which offers text-to-audio conversion in addition to braille.
As a reading aid, SoundGecko offers three main benefits:
- Remote Access: Users can integrate SoundGecko with SkyDrive, Dropbox, and other cloud storage applications to access articles from virtually anywhere.
- Multitasking: Listen to articles on the way to work, at the office, standing in lines, or while straightening up the living room.
- Increased Energy: Listening to articles rests your eyes and frees you from staring at a monitor -- stress reduction that can increase reading enjoyment and comprehension.
To use SoundGecko, you simply go to its website and paste a link to an article you'd like to have read, provide an email address, and press the "Get MP3" button beside the two-line form.
A screen notifies you that SoundGecko is processing your request.
Within a few minutes, SoundGecko converts the text to synthesized speech and sends an email that includes a link to am audio file of the story.
To hear the story, click on the link and it will being playing immediately. You can also post audio link to your FaceBook and Twitter accounts. The message also tells you the article's word count and how much time listening saves over reading.
You can also connect your Google Drive or Dropbox account and SoundGecko will automatically place a copy of the MP3 audio file there.
The digitized male reading voice (the only option) is clear and easy to understand, though has less human emotion and inflection than what's found in top synthetic speech programs.
SoundGecko iPhone App
In addition to its web-based service, there is also a SoundGecko iOS app. A version for Windows phones is in development.
SoundGecko version 1.1.0 has a "Popular" tab so users can see trending articles other SoundGecko customers are listening to and sharing. Playlist items are now grouped by specific days to make content easier to organize.
The SoundGecko app works on the iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S; iPod touch (3rd & 4th generation); and iPad. The app requires iOS 5.0 or later. The file size is 1.6 MB.
About SoundGecko Developer 121cast
121cast was founded by Andrew Armstrong, Ed Hooper and Long Zheng in February 2012. Its vision is to reinvent the radio by "creating an online platform that delivers personalized audio for consumption on the go." The firm is based in Melbourne Australia.