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Google's Phonetic Arts is one of many online voice synthesizers: Try these out

December 3, 2010 |  1:20 pm

Speaker Google Inc. announced Friday that it had purchased Phonetic Arts, a British speech synthesis company. Google has been playing with various voice synthesizers for a while, including the ones used by its Google Translate, Google Maps and GOOG-411 software.

As the company said in its announcement, there are bound to me many more applications that will benefit from a voice output feature. If you're driving and need to know a phone number, say, or you're cooking and want to hear a list of ingredients, it would be helpful to have the computer read them to you.

Of course, speech synthesis has been around for decades, and has often made its way into popular culture. Think Stephen Hawking, this recent episode of "30 Rock," or the hilarious Xtranormal bear-pigs, who have lampooned iPhone buyers, federal monetary policy and lately taken a star turn in a Geico commercial.

It's always fun to play around with text-to-speech synthesizers and make the robot voice say whatever you want. Here are a few that are available around the Web:

VoiceForge: A demo that lets you choose from more than 50 voices of varying genders, ages, and accents.

Xtranormal: Make your own movies with bizarre talking animals

AT&T Labs Natural Voices: Try out more than a dozen different male and female voices with different accents, including Italian, French and German. Lets you download the results.

Acapela: Five male and female voices with British accents.

Google Translate: A number of the 50+ languages Google translates offer a voice version of the translation. Works for English, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and others.

Phonetic Arts: The company Google bought -- you can't do text to speech, but you can hear a few samples of their voices. Impressive!

-- David Sarno

Image: Will Hale / Flickr

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