Google updates Text-to-Speech engine with new and high-quality voices

March 6, 2014
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Google Nexus 5 black aa 11

Text-to-Speech version 3 brings news languages and higher-quality voices for English US and English UK.

If you use the voice synthesis capabilities of your smartphone, for things like reading books aloud or interacting with Google Now, you probably use Google’s Text-to-Speech engine, although Samsung packs its own engine on some of its devices.

Google released Text-to-Speech as a standalone app in the Play Store back in October, opening the way for fast, seamless updates to this important part of the Android user experience.

Here’s what’s new in version 3 (update from 2.4.3) of Google’s Text-to-Speech:

  • High quality voices: English US now features Female (high quality) in addition to Female, while English UK gained three new voices: Male, Female (high quality), and Male (high quality). These new high quality voices’ are huge in terms of file size, compared to the regular versions – 244MB for English US Female (high quality), versus just 6.8MB for the regular version. Expect smoother enunciation and intonations that are more natural.
  • Support for Brazilian Portuguese and United States Spanish. This brings the total of supported languages to nine: German, English UK, English US, Spanish ES, Spanish US, French, Italian, Korean, and Portuguese (BR). Only English US and English UK have high-quality voice packs for now.
  • Small cosmetic changes to the settings UI.

To play with the new voices, go to Settings>>Language & Input>>Text-to-speech output and select the language and voice that you like the most. Personally, I think the high-quality female UK English voice sounds great, but the improvement is obvious in the other high-quality voices as well.

Unfortunately, it seems that many apps don’t follow the setting you choose – for instance, we couldn’t get Play Books to use English UK, even when we set the phone language to English UK. If you want an easy method to try the new voices, the best way is to use the Google Translate app – just enter some text in English and pick English as the destination language, that does the trick.

Do you use text-to-speech functions? If so, in what apps?

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