Wait. Doesn’t your Mac have speech capability already? Yes. But that’s beside the point. Talking devices, thanks to Apple’s iPhone 4S and Siri, the intelligent personal assistant, are about to get a lot smarter, much more fun, and totally, completely, everlastingly integrated into our iDevices.
Now, back to getting speech onto or from your Mac. It’s easy.
Click, Click, Talk, Talk
Apple has been on a roll in recent years, cranking out one hot new product after another. The latest talks to you.
What about Mac users? Yes, the Mac can talk to you, too. You just have to tell it what to say.
It’s not like the Speech capability built-in to the Mac is interactive the way Siri interacts.
Siri is way cool and everyone knows she will be better next year and the year after. As for the Mac talking to you, bah humbug. It’s much ado over not much.
Open System Preferences, choose Speech and you get a System Preference Pane of options and voices for both Speech Recognition and Text to Speech.
This ain’t Siri, but it’s free.
Wait. Siri is free, too, but you’re obligated to buy an iPhone 4S to get into a serious relationship with her. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The options are nominal but interesting. Select a voice and speaking rate. Open up TextEdit, type something you want the voice to speak, select what you wrote, right click and select Speech and select Start Speaking.
Voila! Your Mac talks to you. But it’s not an interactive conversation because speech on your Mac is basically stupid.
Slightly better are Mac apps that do the same thing your Mac already does but do it easier and for free. That’s SpeakLine, a free Mac app that, well, speaks to you, reads to you, but doesn’t interact like Siri.
There’s not much to SpeakLine. It just works.
Type in whatever you want your Mac to read back to you, select one of the Mac’s voices, and click the Start Reading button.
There’s also an option to export the voice as an AIFF audio file (high quality) so you could plug it into iTunes.
I see promise here, but this kind of technology is where the puck has already been for a few years, not where the puck is now (that’s Siri), and not where the puck will be in a few years.
SpeakLine has uses (for example, those who need documents read to them with a good voice) but needs more just to be useful beyond what your Mac already does. Export the voices in MP3 or AAC (smaller files) would be a nice touch.
Instant click to import the audio into iTunes would be another nice touch. Even better would be the ability to have your Mac listen to your voice, transcribe it into text, then have one of the Mac’s voices speak it back to you like some kind of assistant.
I’m sure Apple is working on that.