Mac OS X “Leopard” comes with a new and quite excellent text to speech voice, “Alex”. It’s the largest file in the operating system, weighing in at 669 MB, and yet, even with the smallish capacity of the iPhone storage, I’d love to have Alex on my iPhone, as it would open up a host of new abilities. Imagine these possibilities:
- Jump in the car and have all your email read to you out loud.
- No more fumbling with the Map function while driving (and I see more and more Blackberry users doing this on the interstate, too) — tap the screen and Alex reads the most recent direction out loud.
- Forget custom ringtones: have the name of the caller announced. I had a Panasonic landline phone that did this, it was genuinely useful, even though text-to-speech typically (and understandably) has issues with proper names.
- Have your RSS news feed read out loud to you during your morning commute.
- Combine text to speech with some basic speech recognition and an “I’m feeling lucky”-style wikipedia search, and you could just speak into the iPhone something you’re interested in, say, “John Coltrane,” and get back the first sentence of the wikipedia entry (“John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967), nicknamed Trane, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.”). Tap the screen for more.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The iPhone is crying out for a way to interact with it in a hands-free fashion, and now that the Mac finally has a non-cringeworthy synthesized voice that works on Mac OS X, there’s no reason Apple should not combine the two.
To further illustrate the utility of this idear, here’s the above post rendered as text to speech (complete with typo!), via Alex.