Text to speech (TTS) is a form of speech synthesis that converts text on a page, such as a help file or web page, into spoken voice output. TTS can be used for things such as reading a text message to someone who’s driving, or reading the computer display information for a visually impaired person. It can take any text-based message and turn it into an easily understood verbal message. While TTS may lack the emotional expression a human voice naturally produces, the speech synthesis is typically very accurate. TTS systems may be used by:
- Students with dyslexia
- Readers on the go
- Multitaskers, such as a baker, who wants the recipe read aloud
- Elderly readers
- Visually imapired readers
- Foreign-language students
TTS vs. voice response systems
TTS should not be confused with voice response systems (VRS). A voice response system, also known as interactive voice response, synthesizes speech by concatenating sentences from a database of prerecorded words and is used for a different purpose than a TTS system, which forms sentences and/or phrases based on a language’s graphemes and phonemes.
Voice response systems are limited to synthesizing sentences that contain only words that have been predetermined by the system. TTS systems, in contrast, are theoretically capable of “reading” any string of text characters to form original sentences.
Simply put, a VRS is a recorded voice that plays when a caller rings in. It sounds like a human voice, and that voice gives the caller options, such as pressing a certain number on the keypad of the phone for a certain action to happen. For example, a VRS may say, “If you’d like to speak with the billing department, please press two.” After two is pressed, it triggers the action of transferring the call to the billing department.
However, VRS would not be around if it were not for TTS systems. TTS is responsible for giving voice to all the text written by an VRS service. For businesses, having both a TTS system and VRS is beneficial. Having a TTS system allows a business to reach a new demographic of society that includes those who are visually impaired or have trouble reading. The call can be pre-recorded in any language, meaning language barriers are removed. With the combination of a TTS system and a VRS, a business can send messages in both audio and text format to customers, allowing for better connectivity and faster communication.