Most people today use Text To Speech (TTS) technology in their daily lives without thinking about it. Examples include - Map App or Virtual Assistants on SmartPhones, Navigation system in cars and Smart Home devices.
The same technology allows VI users to read electronic content by listening, hence the phrase “Reading without Seeing”. TTS option has been widely available for English and other western languages for more than a decade. With proper Accessibility tools, people with Vision Impairment (VI) can be just as effective and productive as people with normal sight in most professional jobs, including banking, engineering and teaching.
TTS software for western languages has been available for PCs, Smartphones and Tablets for many years. Many of these devices now support at least one language for each country or region. As such Hindi TTS is available for Android, iOS and Windows 10 devices as an optional OS feature from Google, Apple and Microsoft respectively. Google also provides Bengali TTS for Android devices. It has taken many years to get this stage. As of 2018, Microsoft has only added Hindi TTS to Windows 10. TTS support for other Indic languages from the OS vendors is not anticipated anytime soon.
Children learn best in their native language. We cannot expect Visually Impaired children to first learn Hindi or English and then use the TTS software to read books, news articles, do homework in Hindi or English instead of their mother tongue spoken by their family and friends.
Hear2Read project fills this void. Using open source TTS technology, Hear2Read volunteers have released portable TTS software for the following Indic languages:
Working on Assamese next.
Hear2Read Apps are free to use without any Ads or monetization of any kind. Thanks to the generosity of many volunteers and donors who have supported the project since 2013.
Hear2Read TTS Engine provides a background service to convert text to speech. It can be used by any TTS-enabled App to "Read" by listening. The most common Apps that use TTS engine are Screen Reading Apps or eBook readers. eBook readers allow navigation within a book by chapter, page number, or bookmark, and word searches.
Hear2Read Engine Apps include a demo screen to let users read short example text. The demo screen is not a screen reading App.
Hear2Read team would like to thank Prof. Alan Black (Carnegie Mellon University) and his students for enhancing the Festvox family of open source TTS software to support Indic languages. Hear2Read uses Festvox software available on Github at https://github.com/festvox.