DVICE has an excellent video showing the difference between text-to-speech and what us humans call “neurons-to-speech.” As evidenced by this brief scene from Blade Runner, acted out by an iPod Shuffle and a Kindle 2, we find that the Authors Guild is as crazy as a sack of beetles in a windstorm.
TTS hasn’t improved for one good reason: the human voice is just fine for reading out text and through the use of simple synthesis – Garmin, for example, uses a nice Australian woman to synthesize everything its GPS devices have to say – you can say almost anything you want. Although you’ll get a few clinkers in there where the software can’t quite translate a phoneme, it’s mostly correct.
What DVICE has quite cleverly shown is that TTS devices are complex but failed systems. The human ear loves the human voice just as the human eye loves the human face – ask any five month old. They’ll smile and coo at anything with two eyes and that doesn’t sound like a broken Speak ‘n’ Spell. But the love real human voices and faces. There is nothing better. To essentially outlaw TTS on the Kindle 2 is analogous to outlawing voices in toys because they take the place of a loving, caring parent. If you find TTS – or a Fisher-Price stuffed animal that talks – a strong analog to the human voice, you have other issues.