Android: Bye, creepy fembot voice, hello smiling one

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My Android phone (HTC Evo 4G running Froyo 2.2) has a very creepy, quirky spoken voice.
I realize how ridiculous this must sound if someone from, say, 70s complained that the phone has a creepy voice. Just the fact that it can “talk” is pretty amazing. But, as with most good things, you get used to it pretty quickly.

And given my complete lack of navigation skills (I can generally find my way back, once I’ve been somewhere, but it’s that initial “how the *beep* do I get there” that gets me stumped), GPS navigation with voice is that everyday miracle I rely on a lot. Especially as it forewarns you that “In one thousand feet, take the exit on the left towards Bladi-blah drive”.

Or, rather “een ONe SAuzant fEet tahke ze ExIt on ze lEft towards blAdi-blAH dreeve”.
Metallic, flat voice with wrong stresses, that horrifies strangers who never encountered that spelling toy during their childhood. Or heard exactly the same kind of metallic male voice of your friendly automatic weather station (hello, Arnold?) Versus, say, the Weather Channel that also uses automatic system to generate forecast voiceover, minus screetchy sounds.

But it’s free. So, most people will live with that.

For those who want something smoother and more human-like (which is creepy in its own way, but just a tiny bit) there’s an alternative — SVOX Classic TTS and its “Grace” female voice for US speakers (and a bunch of other voices for other languages). It may be the best 3 bucks you’ve ever spent on making your phone more friendly.

Driving directions turn out almost completely human-like (Waze is also using an alternative text to speech method, but I personally prefer Google Navigation). A slightly odd aspect of the SVOX TTS engine is that “Grace” sounds like she’s smiling. Something slightly tweaked in intonations, and speech patterns, but it gives me that impression.

And so you can forget about old school science fiction, and move on to the more modern science fiction, where fembots are no longer a threat to human existence, but simply assisting major Kusanagi in her every day chores.

Hope Google will eventually include this type of voice synthesis tool versus Pico TTS.

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