Impressions of Pocket’s new text to speech feature

Pocket formerly known as Read it LaterBy Jeremy Hill | for Gadget Tell 

Pocket (previously known as Read it Later) released an interesting update for its Android app last week: Known as the “Listen” feature and part of the Android 4.2 update, Pocket can now read your articles to you.

It’s easy enough to use: You simply open any article you’ve previously saved, press “Listen,” and then sit back as Pocket reads the article to you, word for word.

It’s a neat update, but is it practical? Here are our impressions:

I think Google’s artificial intelligence voices are among the best in the industry. For example, the voice assistant within Google Now sounds less robotic and more natural than Apple’s Siri. However, this level of quality seems to be restricted to a sentence or two; when ‘Listen’ has to read back an article that’s comprised of several paragraphs, things become a little harder to sit through.

One thing I like about the Pocket update is the ability to skip to the beginning of paragraphs, as if you’re changing tracks on an album. I don’t like how the document dims while the audio is being played back. Since the document scrolls down as the audio goes on, I would have liked to read along without needing to keep the media controls on screen.

It’s still faster to read articles in Pocket as opposed to listening to them. Google’s artificial intelligence can’t read long stories with the cadence that people are used to. It’s almost like listening to a first grader read a book one … word … at … a … time.

This update is fantastic for the blind. Other than that, I think it’s a neat feature that will mostly go unused. It’s available as a free download on Google Play and in Amazon’s Appstore.

(Note: As iOS doesn’t provide a text-to-speech API, this feature isn’t available to Apple users.  According to a post on the Pocket blog, “as we experiment further with [the ‘Listen’] feature we will continue to look at bringing it to iOS but have no immediate plans to do so. )

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7 Comments on Impressions of Pocket’s new text to speech feature

  1. I hope this will spread, especially to iOS. And to ebook apps.

    InstaFetch, an Instapaper clone, has long been able to do this on Android. It works well too, both the app and the speech.

    It’s good for when you’re resting or walking/driving.

  2. “iOS doesn’t provide a text-to-speech API”

    I suspected something like that. A bit of a flaw.
    But it can be done, there’s several apps which will read copied text aloud. And a couple of web browsers which will. And the ebook app Blio will read to you, albeit not with the greatest voice in the world.

  3. “iOS doesn’t provide a text-to-speech API”
    … because it doesn’t need to. On iOS, check out Settings > General > Accessibility

    Any properly written iOS app, such as the iBooks.app, that presents text can be read to you in a wide variety of languages and accents. It’s built-in to the OS and works globally.

  4. … OK, I’ve looked at it now. It still seems I can’t get the TTS without also having the other Voice Over features for the blind. (And I have to double-click buttons etc.)

    It does not work in Kindle App. And in iBooks it seems it will only read one line at a time.

    Actually I get more use out of the Read Selection setting. It’s better than nothing, but it’s hardly ideal that one has to select each page to get it read aloud. (And that also does not work in Kindle App.)

  5. On a Mac, the TTS voices can be speeded up or slowed down to create a more natural and faster flow of words. It’s a feature most don’t know about without some fiddling around with the preferences. If there are preferences for the Pocket, you may want to fiddle with them to see if it can do the same thing.

  6. There is now an iOS option for having TTS reading of your Pocket list using an app called reedeo (http://reedeo.com/).

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