Chrome OS is adding eSpeak, a compact open-source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages, to expand the list of supported Text-to-Speech languages.
According to the eSpeak project page, “eSpeak uses a “formant synthesis” method. This allows many languages to be provided in a small size. The speech is clear, and can be used at high speeds, but is not as natural or smooth as larger synthesizers which are based on human speech recordings”
Now, here is why Google is adding this to Chrome. According to the bug created for this:
Chrome OS only includes 10 text-to-speech languages from Google’s speech engine in the OOBE. While there are additional first-party and third-party voices that can be downloaded later, we don’t have any way for a blind user who speaks Swedish, for example, to use their Chromebook out of the box.
The solution here is to include Espeak (or Espeak NG), a small, lightweight, low-quality speech engine that supports over a hundred human languages. It’s only around ~5 MB. It makes sense to include that and maybe even take away some of the less commonly used Google speech engine voices by default.
The team added this new component today. Here is the commit log.
I am a huge fan of Text-to-Speech. I use it all the time to listen to articles (Pocket app) and books (Google Play Books). However, speech synthesizers are much more useful in accessibility use cases. In that way, this will be a huge win for a lot of Chromebook fans who use non-English languages.
Are you one of them?