The KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden has announced that it will be working with Wikipedia on a text-to-speech engine for wiki articles. Uniquely, though, it’s claimed that this will be “the world’s first crowdsourced speech synthesis platform.”
According to the announcement, “the platform will be optimised for Wikipedia but freely available as open source, and readily usable by any site that uses the MediaWiki software on which Wikimedia is based.” And “like Wikipedia’s content, the speech output will be crowdsourced, with users contributing to the continuous development of the synthesizer.”
First target for the project are Swedish, English, and Arabic versions of the platform. Once these are completed, “sometime about September 2017,” according to the announcement, “it will be possible with the help of users to extend synthesized speech to the remaining 280 languages in which Wikipedia is available. All material produced will be freely licensed and can be used for free by anyone, in line with the rules of Wikimedia Commons.” The whole project also involves the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, which is funding development, and STTS speech technology services.
Given that Wikipedia is now regarded as such an authority that academics even write articles on the subject, a project like this could have quite a reach and quite some importance. Some Wikipedia articles are now practically canonical status. And although the project is planned primarily for visually impaired users, it’s not hard to imagine many students worldwide letting the new engine read to them as they study or revise.