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Listen to Webpages While Driving 106

dimitril writes "Tired of sitting in your car for hours and practically doing nothing but listening to the radio or the same CD for the fifth time? You could use those hours by reading your websites with this little project. You will love those traffic jams!"
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Listen to Webpages While Driving

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  • Yay! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jesser ( 77961 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @04:46AM (#4992925) Homepage Journal
    Another way to distract myself while driving and get myself killed!
    • You could try the cell phone / baby / audio webpage / ps2 in the car combo, its a goodie. I could see how something like this _could_ be used well, for like entertainment, but the truth is most websites aren't really "funny"., I doub't listening to even /. would keep people listening for long..
    • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Informative)

      by cyberformer ( 257332 )
      Actually, no joke. There've already been studies [] which show that this kind of crap is actually more dangerous [] than talking on a cell phone while driving (itself as dangerous as drunk driving []), because a voice interface to a Web page is so awkward.

    • Another way to distract myself while driving and get myself killed!

      Or others.

      I really, really loathe this trend toward "driver entertainment devices". Even people listening to background music on the radio drive more poorly. Cell phones are downright dangerous. The move towards HUD web browsers or maps is just asking for problems.

      In a few more years, the problem will go away. Carnegie Mellon University has been working on self-driving cars for a few years, and they had a test where one did 98% of the way across the US (humans had to fuel it, though). Until then, though, we have this gap where people think it's a great idea to screw around while controlling their hulking SUV. It's not.

      I'd strongly support a complete ban on cell phones in use by drivers. Forget this "hands-free crap" -- the difference between hands-on and hands-free phones is not that big in terms of mortality. They should *both* be banned. Someone does *not* need to chat with their friend so badly that they can put other people at risk.
      • "Someone does *not* need to chat with their friend so badly that they can put other people at risk"

        So no talking at all, to anybody.. while we're at it no smoking either.. And in fact eating/drinking (soda/water/juice) causes more accidents then cell phone usage.

        • So no talking at all, to anybody

          While driving? I'd say that's pretty reasonable.

          Some companies have a ban on usage of cell phones while driving on company time because of the risk factor involved.
          • Some companies have a ban on usage of cell phones while driving on company time because of the risk factor involved.

            Of course what they really have is a ban on people suing them because a driver was talking on a cell phone and it's the easiest thing to pick out as a cause (rather than "he is an idiot").

            Personally I drink coffee while driving all the time, and it has never adversely affected my driving at all. I also talk to passengers while driving, and again it doesn't adversely affect my driving. I don't, however, look at the passenger as I talk to them or they talk to me, and I find it baffling and fascinating when people do that: My eyes never leave the gauges and the road. The same thing goes for drinking coffee, or changing the station on the radio.

            When am I most dangerous? a) When I'm deeply in thought about a problem: It has nothing to do with talking on a cell phone, listening to the radio, or drinking a coffee b) When very tired. I drove all the way from Florida to Ontario straight and I feel guilty about the risks I took when I literally was on the verge of blinking into sleep.
          • I was talking about ANYBODY, including those sitting next to you or in your back seat. We shouldn't have the others in the car talking either.. Everybody sit in complete silence.

    • So now that I have the perfect excuse on crashing my car ...

      Insurance adjuster: "Why you crash your car again?"

      Me: "While I was _listening_ to my favorite webpage
      a guerilla type of webpage suddenly popped-up,
      that scared the beejeezzusse outta me !"
    • I think not.. If you run it through your car head unit it would be no more distracting than listening to the 9 o'clock news and flicking stations..
  • The highlighted website featured on the "talker panel" screenshot is with other Geek friendly sites prominent. A case of blatant sucking up or what? Also: "...while you have your first cup of java..."
  • With tabletpcs, PPCs, Palms, Phones all get me hooked up to the internet, now this, I'll never be able to get away from the websites again!
  • by SHEENmaster ( 581283 ) <travis@utk . e du> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @04:53AM (#4992936) Homepage Journal
    So it will take a while to get through the menus. Who wants to hear:
    older stuff
    rob's page
    submit story
    past polls
    Dec 2
    Dec 31
    (5 recent)
    Dec 29
    Dec 31
    (2 recent)
    Dec 22
    Dec 31
    (2 recent)
    Dec 23
    Dec 23
    Jun 29
    Jan 1
    (7 recent)
    Dec 31
    (3 recent)

    While trying to get to the news? Why not overlay the text onto an LCD windshield? It's just as easy to kill yourself that way.
    • I was wondering the same.

      I remember when I first found Msagent and thought I would have it read some webpages for me while I was doing something else. I usually ended up listening to Menu's and index's.

      • At my site [] I wrote a php script that accesses fortune []. For a custom-reader, (also on the site for winshit and macintosh; Linux has fortune on its own :) I added "comment tags" around the fortune ittself that my client can parse out. A site I host [] wrote a similar client(tbr) for google's "did you mean" function.

        I am wondering if a "reader" project will ever employ similar technology? It would be a lot easier if frames were still popular. The difficult part would be getting parser routines that adapt to unkown sites, but ones could easily be written for slashdot, freshmeat, etc.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Proper CSS support (on both ends) could make hiding menus from text readers quite easy.
    • No actually it would be more like this:
      ef eh queue
      ohlder stuhf
      rohbs pahg
      suhbmit stohry
      pahst poles
      ehch oh eff

      So much for trying to emulate the Apple MacinTalk Pro voices.
      • Mac OS X has wonderfull speech support built in. The unique thing is that it works!
        • It still has trouble obviously. But you can't complain!
          • But I can refuse to boot OS X for anything but gammes!

            I would use OS X regularly if it had Linux's virtual terminal support and coult run an X server on one terminal and Aqua on another. With a package solution equivalent to Debian GNU/Linux.

            Fink and the rest have potential, but aren't ready for general use. Maybe Debian GNU/Darwin will be released someday with all the goodies that I want. Until then though, it will be Linux for anything serious.
            • That's pretty pathetic. Try OS X out for a week. See if it grows on you. Then again you are used to Linux as your main OS. So you're tellin' me you use OS X stricly for games? Shouldn't you be using Windows for games?
              • If he has a Mac, then he can't run Windows at all!

                However he can (and likely is) running some form of Linux on his Mac and I think that is what he is talking about. Using his Mac only for Linux and then using OS X for games. OS X actually has a pretty descent games library now. I think there have been more new big name games released for the Mac in the last 2 years than there have been in the history of the Mac prior to 2000.

    • You
      Hundr ed
    • So it will take a while to get through the menus. Who wants to hear [all the stuff at the top of each Slashdot page] while trying to get the news?

      This is a reminder that web accessibility isn't just for letting disabled people use your site. Many of the same techniques are useful for letting non-disabled people use your site through a device other than a computer with a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and graphical web browser.

      The problem of identifying the beginning of the main content of a page is not new to this listen-while-driving application. In 1999, Jim Thatcher of IBM Special Needs Systems called it "the most serious impedement to access to commercial web content" []. At least one version of JAWS, a screen reader popular among blind users, provides the shortcut INS+ENTER for "move to the next block of text which has no links". That JAWS includes such an unreliable heuristic points to the importance of being able to skip blocks of navigation links.

      The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines suggest [] grouping navigation links in a <map> element, and until assistive technologies widely understand <map> as a navigation-link-grouping mechanism, also putting a "skip to main content" link at the top of the page and hiding it from graphical browsers.

      Mark Pilgrim recommends trying to put the main content of the page first in the HTML, and describes a "table trick" [] that allows a navigation sidebar on the left side of a page to come after the main content in the HTML. (If a page uses CSS for layout rather than tables, it should be even easier to put a left sidebar later in the HTML.) For the listen-while-driving application, I imagine that putting the main content first is a more effective technique than the "let users of text browsers skip navigation links" techniques.

      By the way, switching to Slashdot's light mode (preview []) eliminates some of the junk at the top of Slashdot pages. The faq...hof navigation links are still there, but the OSDN bar, section links, and recent topic links are gone.
  • What good is having slashdot read to you if you can't post back?!? Get back to me when it takes dictation and can handle meta-moderation.
  • just FYI. The logo on the article shouldn't be LEGO, imho.
  • - human eye doesn't always start reading in the top left corner of the page. - say bye bye to sites using shockwave, flash, streaming etc. - I can't imagine this software saying "this pages displays photos. the first one is in a lady in a bikini. there is a sunset somewhere and palm trees. and a bird somewhere in the top right corner"... - Forms? CGI? Interactivity: problems. - What if is a site is built with frames? In which order do I get to hear the word content of those frames?
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:06AM (#4992965)
    It's easier to convert the output of the speech synthesizer to mp3 and use an MP3 player for the car. That way, you don't have to dress up like the Borg to do a fast forward/reverse/skip. The code for dealing with it is also much simpler. Here's a simple 8 line Bash script that downloads a list of URLs and converts them to MP3 files (options are from memory, so double check before using it):

    cat list-of-urls |
    while read url; do
    lynx -dump $url |
    rsynth-say -l temp.pcm
    bladeenc -mono -b 32 -rawfreq=8000 -rawbits=16 -rawchannels=2 temp.pcm /card/audio$id.mp3

    You can run this nightly from cron. If you want better speech output, use Festival. You may want to filter the output from "lynx" through a sed script to remove redundant content.
  • I wonder how it would interpret
  • I'm using something similar to post to slashdot right now, traffic isn't really moving so well and F B::FD%#S$%D XC&%^: H^** 89-j0qwrqwrbnipq23rb6jhji24aqe5
  • Been done (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glenebob ( 414078 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:28AM (#4993007)
    Anybody remember 'radio'? On the radio people read the news to you. They even play music. Old idea.
  • by Kasmiur ( 464127 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:30AM (#4993009)
    Me: Computer follow the link someone posted on slashdot.

    Computer: following link to

    me : DOH no STOP STOP STOP!!!

    Computer : Loading page..

    Computer : ARG my EYES@!!!!!

    Me : where is that smoke coming from..

    *insert car accident*
    • Think of that with a windshield HUD..
      • Headline: Troll Causes Car Pileups Around the World After Linking to

        Car accidents wreaked havoc in major cities yesterday after a rogue troll posted a link to Toyota Camrys with the new windshild HUD option were tricked into displaying the offensive site, causing mass panic and causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles.

        "We don't know what happened, but we reccomend that users of our site view comments at a minimum of 1, 2 if they would like to be safe," said Rob Malda, who runs the popular site declined comment, citing urgent administration tasks.
  • Years ago we already have voice chatting by either textspeech software or digitized voice transmission protocol for Internet chatting. You can always bring this kind of things to your car as you put your Linux MP3 jukebox into your car.

    What makes this project so special is that geeky looking glove. I don't know other place but in my area people could sue you for dangerous driving, under same consideration as in watching TV or talking to mobile phone while driving.
  • Nethack (Score:3, Funny)

    by Doomrat ( 615771 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:45AM (#4993022) Homepage
    Get back to me when it lets you play Nethack whilst driving.

    The hit the solid wall! You die... Do you want your body identified? [ynq] (n)

    Or perhaps:

    You open the dashboard.. Wait! That's a small mimic!
  • This isnt just uninnovative, it's behind the times. In dash computers have been around for a while, and since 1996, you could use OS/2 with IBM's ScreenReader/2 and Netscape Communicator and VoiceType to have your computer read a web page to you, while you told it what links to go to (you would simply speak whatever link text was underlined or the ALT text for the image that was the link...)

    Oh well...

  • This story is really pathethic! Listening to geeky webpage in a robotic voice would be a shameful event.
    Let me suggest you a better reading. I've just written a detailed instruction wanking guide for men. Have a look [].

    PS: Happy new year!
  • Since OS X is already in the mix, built-in speech recognition [] will do this without all the mouse and glove crap...I'd be embarrassed to admit I did this...what a load, and shame on anyone for thinking it is worth posting. I'm sure there is a team at Apple that will hang themselves for all the work they wasted.

    1. Load pages into computer and body into car
    2. Tell the computer to navigate accordingly
    3. Tell the computer to select all (or not) and speak (services/speech/start speaking text)...duh
  • multiple buttons!!!!

    (From the article)
    clicks action
    1 read next line
    2 read previous line
    3 repeat line
    4 close file
    5 move up 10 lines

    My apologies for the flamebaiting comment, but it's important to keep the mac users pissed off, as they wouldn't be much fun otherwise.
  • by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:18AM (#4993080) Homepage

    POV from a helicopter. Close in on an SUV cruising the freeway along the seaside at 90 mph. Inside we see a man at the wheel, and his family. He is obviously quite excited over his new gadget, the Web Talker...

    Man: Honey, you should see this website I discovered the other day. Full of News for Nerds, Stuff that matters, it is pure nirvana for geeks like me!

    Wife: Yeah, whatever.

    The man makes a face and loads the Slashdot homepage on the Web Talker.

    Man: Look dear, they are making robots in China that can do Tai Chi. What else would they think of next?

    Wife: Are you sure they weren't hinting at their inability to get them to move any faster? Like, so they could do something productive???

    Man sighs, then tunes out wife and loads another article. Inside, he finds very little info on the matter. Fortunately, a kind-hearted AC has provided a link with more info. He begins to load it.

    Man: See, not all the world is decep...

    Suddenly, we hear a loud "Eh. The goatse..." emanate from the speaker, followed by screams of pure terror. We zoom out to safety as we see the SUV lose control and run straight off the cliff.
  • Just when you thought pop-up ads couldn't become more annoying...

    And it isn't very safe either. I now, I would be more than distracted, if a voice suddenly screamed "Spank me, big boy - only 2.50$/min" whilst I was driving.


  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:35AM (#4993115) Journal
    This would be a lot nicer once cellular/satellite web becomes more widespread. A lot of what I would like to listen to/hear about is news-type sites, including of course slashdot. A pre-downloaded site wouldn't be overly up-to-date, so for non-specific one would still be better off with the radio.

    With a live connection to the internet for news downloads (news should be text only... not too much bandwidth needed), and a decent sounding voice agent, this would be a lot more interesting and useful.

    If piped through the car speakers, it also wouldn't be much more distracting than having the radio on to the news, unless you're trying to claim a first-post on slashdot while driving.
  • Now I can listen to my porn while I'm stuck in traffic!
  • by pyth ( 87680 )
    Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these... You could listen to like 10 different pages at once!
  • Same cd 5 times? Nonsense! Thank god my bro got me a mp3 cd player for the car!

  • Hook this up to AirSnort or something and then you could listen to other people's private web pages while driving :-)

  • Is this even the best way to acheive this result? I have done research, and implimentation on making computers user-friendly to the blind. I consider a driver blind because except for the momentary glance, there should be NO visual interaction.

    Software like Dragon naturally speaking are the best I've found for speech in and out (they do call for a headset). but you can use your favorite flavor of recognition and text-to-speech.

    For input, wouldn't it be easier/safer to just mount buttons on the steering wheel? half the cars out already have stereo controls there, why not back, forward, and Read that?

    I'm personally building this type of interface for my car, I would NEVER consider using a wired glove (tangle in gearshift) or for that matter a headset (illegal in most states anyway). a reasonably quiet car can handle a mic on the dash and a laptop.

    -subnote: seems headphones ARE illegal in California but not utah, figures. I guess drivers can't get any worse here, even with headphones.

    -sub-subnote: anyone now any good software to get voice recognition/text-to-speech under linux?
    Hey Gimme my 3 cents! I gave you a nickel!
  • ...he came up with an innovative way to do something that nobody else is doing--and I loved the description of that homemade mouse-glove.

    Yes, we can think up modifications and improvements--the original guy still did something cool. It's a lot easier to improve somebody else's idea than it is to be crazy enough to be an inventor. And speaking of crazy, I do agree that surfing the web in your car could be dangerous--but not as dangerous as cell phones!

  • I can't even stomach lynx for day-to-day browsing issues, for crying out loud. I can't fathom how a spoken-text browser will be useable at all!?

    Any site that uses an imagemap for a navigation bar will be utterly hopeless for use with this thing.

    Now, I can see this being of reasonable value to blind people, though there are already several solutions for web accessibility for the blind. And by and large, blind people don't drive...
    • Good point. RSS ("RDF Site Summary") - an XML standard for summarizing and pointing to website content - may be part of the solution here. The RSS 1.0 spec defines XML files that contain summary information and pointers to content on websites. Some links:
      • O'Reilly [] has an excellent RSS tutorial.
      • This [] article is a good source of RSS Links.
      • Meerkat [] shows RSS in action.
      • This is pretty nifty - an NNTP-RSS gateway. It lets your favorite NNTP newsreader works as RSS newsreader. (See screenshot [])

      [ Note: I'm no expert on RSS/RDF - just an interested reader. Maybe an expert can chip in here:... ] RSS does not provide one crucial thing - information on the internal structure of the content itself. Maybe RDF [] (Resource Description Framework) does that -- I'm not sure. Anyway, RSS only supplies meta-information pointing to the content. An in-car application could read out "article headers" from RSS information. If the user "selected" a particular "article header", the system would need "content-structure information" (RDF?) to skip unwanted elements like menus and ads, and just read out content like a radio news story. Of course, only some types of content lend themselves to being read out. For instance, Slashdot has a RDF feed [] (BTW, shouldn't this be an .RSS file?). These point to the Slashdot articles. If I "selected" a story, I'd want a script that extracted the submitted story (and NOT the user comments) and read it out.

      The car's existing audio controls could be used to "browse" such "articles". Some cars have buttons mounted on the steering column to let the driver flip through radio stations without taking his hands off the wheel. For this system, two switches - an "up/down" rocker switch for navigating up and down the "Newsfeed > Headline > Article" hierarchy, and a "forward/backward" switch for navigating elements under the same hierarchy could provide the driver all the control he needed without taking his eyes off the road.

      It would be good to integrate this system with another system that measured cognitive load on the driver. The recitation would pause, say, when speed exceeded some limit, or (using sonar) neighbouring cars came closer than a minimum distance, or some such combination. Done properly, this system _could_ enhance safety by providing the driver feedback.
  • I can see all the comments coming. If we ban this, why do we not ban things like cellphones, car stereos, two way radios etc.

    As far as I'm concerned the only one out of these that should be banned is the cellphone in the hands of somebody actually driving, (as opposed to pulled over at the side of the road). The big difference between a cell and all of these other electronic devices is the fact that, while all the others we listen to over speakers, a typical cellphone using driver HAS THE DAMN THING CLAMPED TO HIS EAR, and therefore effectively has lost the use of that hand for the duration of the call.

    Even using a mobile radio is nowhere near as intrusive as this...a hand microphone is still not clamped to your ear. The only thing that even comes close are these Yuppiefucks that insist on having their SUV as some sort of mobile office, and are dicking around with a laptop on the seat next to them, or a PDA. Fortunately, this one doesn't seem to be as prevalent.

    It's very simple, people. When you drive, you have both hands on the wheel, except for momentary uses of one hand or the other to shift gears, operate the radio, wipers, headlights etc. Anything that takes away the use of one or the other for a significant period of time should be banned like asbestos, as should be anything that takes away one's eyes from the road.

    This is all before considering the total idiots on the roads that do things like shave, put on makeup, read newspapers, enjoy a full course meal etc. This lot should be put up against the wall. Then there's the cretins that let their kids roam around the car, even onto the driver's lap, instead of having them in properly installed child seats!
  • It's definitely a technically cool little setup. But personally I have no desire to listen to the web. I just thank $higherpower that I have my sight and don't have to use computers like that all the time.

    A better thing to have whilest driving long distances is something like this: I've had one of these MP3 players in my car for almost a year now, 4,500+ songs at my fingertips! I never listen to CDs any more. Only 12 songs at a time? pfft!

  • Could there possibly be enough web content to satisfy a need for this kind of thing?

    I find on average that a slow day at work results in my web browsing finishing up around 8:30 - 9:30 in the morning. After that there is simply nothing else that I want to look at on the web. If I used this on my drive into the office then I would have absolutely nothing to do on those slow days.
  • A new feature for slashdot! Yipee!
  • And whiz through those traffic jams all the while enjoying yourself immensely.

  • " I love to work with RealBasic when you want a quick and stable result."
  • This would be a lot cooler if they had modded up a Power Glove to use with this.
  • That's a fricken gardening glove!

    Is this really the most convenient thing to have wires coming out of that are strapped to an expensive laptop?

    Somebody must not drive a manual.

  • ...for people to be using Web standards and writing sites in such a way that promotes accessibility, to use graphics where needed and to not use them where not needed, and so on.

    And above all, to be using Flash for animation and vector graphics and other appropriate things, not entire Websites.
  • Like most of the other intelligent comments here, slashdotters know this product, and it's approach, is neither new or well targeted.

    Not only will such a product be almost impossible to use because of the task of trying to render intelligence from all the HTML soup out there, it does not address the software architecture underlying OS and browsers. It's a waste of time.

    All the major operating systems; Microsoft Windows [], Apple Macintosh [], and the major distributions of Unix, are built on architectures that support accessibility. These are inherent within the component architecture of the software development kits (SDK), and correctly built software utilises the component architectures for interfacing with various devices, including human interactive devices of screen, keyboard, mouse and sound.

    When one builds software in accordance with the resources of the SDK, the fundamentals of user accessibility to software interfaces are addressed. If the developer is not aware of the component architecture of the SDK, and why it is structured that way, they can unwittingly penalised their software usability and their users accessibility, through failing to address standard user interface issues. Each resource needs to be correctly implemented; Icons, Cursor, Menus, Dialog Boxes, Bitmaps, Fonts, String-Tables, Accelerators, Name-Table Version-Information.

    The web also has a similar architecture, and the foundations are there, and improving with better user agent support. Such media can be targeted independently through correct use of CSS Media types [] in the latest browsers. Negligence in not being aware of the web's architecture also penalises the web developer when designing and building web services (such as this case).

    If the web developer wraps their valid code in logical sections divided with DIV tags and assigned appropriate CSS classes, it is possible, using one design, to either display or hide various sections of the page. This also addresses the need for printer friendly pages.

    When the support finally arrives (here's hoping for a perfect world... it is definitely improving), one will be able to enhance web pages, such as interviews and navigation with different voices so that the listener can better differentiate the content through intelligent and creative assignment of Aural CSS [].

    Given that Aural CSS is designed to be interactive, it would be of immense value to the whole mobile device development community to correctly implement such services.

    This would not only assist those with disabilities, but it would be great to be able to listen to some web pages while cleaning the office desk, taking a break, or whatever... but maybe not driving a car.

  • Why commute? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pseudonymus Bosch ( 3479 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:06PM (#4995828) Homepage
    Reading about this, some may rethink why they are spending a big part of their lives in a stopped metal cage while sending CO2 to the atmosphere while looking ot other metal cages.

    Evaluate what changes could be made to your way of life and the social organization so that you could employ that time on better purposes like parenting your children, hacking, cooking, sleeping or posting to Slashdot. Unless you actually like traffic jams.

  • Me: That sounds interesting...."Computer follow link from Listen To Webpages While Driving."
    Computer: 404 error Page Not Found the computer laughs, slashdotted
  • I could just imagine listening to on my way home and hearing the ever so fluent spelling mistakes.
  • To those accustomed to the precise, structured methods of conventional
    system development, exploratory development techniques may seem messy,
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    precision and flexibility may be just as disfunctional in novel,
    uncertain situations as sloppiness and vacillation are in familiar,
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    -- Beau Sheil, "Power Tools for Programmers"

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