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Talking iPods 194

chrisb33 writes to tell us the next iteration of the iPod may talk you through the menus instead of just relying on text. The Scotsman speculates on this new technology based on a patent filed by Apple in the US. From the article: "The patent reveals the idea is driven largely by safety considerations. It states: 'A user will have difficulty navigating the interface in "eyes-busy" situations. Such activities include, for example, driving an automobile, exercising and crossing the street." The patent also makes clear that text-to-speech technology is likely to spread to other hand-held electronic devices such as mobile phones and palm-top computers."
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Talking iPods

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  • by fullcircleflight ( 883189 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:44AM (#15690066)
    If I whistle to my iPod a few seconds of a song melody, I would like to see it identify the track and then play it! I'm sure it would be impossible, but at least it would be more patent-worthy!
  • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:57AM (#15690117) Homepage
    I REALLY hate it in video games the most. I am capable of reading, yet every game tutorial on earth insists on having everything spoken to me at just the slowest speed so that the average joe can follow what is going on.
    One of my favorite games (Battlefield 2) is almost ruined by the constsant spamming in my ears of "Enemy unit spotted!" "ok" "roger sir" "well done team" etc.

    Text is easy to skip, but voices arent, we seem naturally designed to respond to a voice, but we can ignore text. any device, application or game that talks to me just feels like someone nagging me. Besides, what accent will it have? pretty much everyone has at least one accent they hate, are people assuming a US accent is univerally appreciated?

    Can you *imagine* how much MORE annoying the office paperclip would be if it spoke to you?
  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:03AM (#15690134)
    From the Editor's short summary, without actual references to the patent text, it look like a very obvious patent again. Text to speech applyed to menu navigation. Nothing new here.

    Yeah, I actually posted about that 2 years ago when the shuffle was rumored. Can I dig up my old /. post and call it prior art? ;)

    Of course, people thought I was nuts then...

  • by Tryfen ( 216209 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:08AM (#15690148) Homepage
    Just like Shazam - http://www.shazam.com/music/portal [shazam.com] - dial 2345 from your phone, hold it to the speaker, receive the text title of the song and an option to purchase it as a ringtone or song.

  • by 5937 ( 986421 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:12AM (#15690161)
    But Apple says its system will break down words in a new way that makes it possible to pronounce perfectly even the most obscure song titles and artist names. It also proposes using "voice talent" - such as famous actors - to make the speech more human and add in the celebrity factor. The patent also proposes using different voice "characteristics", such as gender, for different sections of the iPod menus. Professor Steve Renals, a speech technology expert at Edinburgh University, said: "It is possible to create very high quality text-to-voices these days. "We have seen some already used in mobile phones, but it has struggled in the past with difficult words and names. The technology is much better now and can cope with most things."
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @09:10AM (#15690456) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to believe this, but frankly, Apple has been letting their TTS and STT features languish since they were introduced to Mac OSX.

    Speakable Items (speech to text commands) are a very simple arrangement: the engine is listening for a finite set of strings at any given time, so error rates are low. Fortunately, the set of strings is gathered from a set of filenames, so it's super-easy to make new strings and organize them by application. Unfortunately, most of the newer applications that are bundled with OSX have no hooks for automation nor sample scripts as speakable items. The speakable item must be an AppleScript or .app, for no discernable reason; I would love to be able to have voice-activated shell scripts without going through some ugly hack of a wrapper script, since it's "Unix" and all.

    VoiceOver (text to speech prompting) is also fairly straightforward, but there's limited support and somewhat inconsistent controls. Many of the blind folks I've seen using voice prompts on other devices want their voice prompts to be very fast, even so far as to blur the words together into abstract "earcons." The AppleScript-invoked speech does not honor the OSX talking speed preferences, so the words just ramble on taking forever to finish. The talking is not a separately controllable volume channel, so if you turn up the iTunes, then the TTS voice will start yelling at you to compete, or worse, not be able to escape the iTunes mute control.

    This is just a rumor, but for the sake of those who like or need good voice features in their interfaces, I hope it signals a new drive to finish what they've started here.

  • by nickheart ( 557603 ) <nick.j.hartman@C ... .com minus punct> on Monday July 10, 2006 @11:40AM (#15691506)
    If apple is trying to instruct it's users how to use it's device while the user is otherwise engaged, i wouldn't be surprised if a judge could find apple liable for an auto accident. Plently of studies have shown that even if you are looking at traffic, if you are being given complex instructions "Move your right index ringer in a clockwise manner to fast forward, or counter-clockwise to..." you are less able to react to your surroundings. They had a really good demonstration on MythBusters, (they also got to drive under the influence of alchohol - but not drunk - to prove you are more impaired when you are taking instructions, than when you knocked 2 back at the bar before driving home.)

    Not that i'm saying this isn't a bad thing to have audio instructions, but if they are endorsing using your iPod while you are "eyes-engaged" i think they'll be looking for trouble.

    if they really want to be safe, they should advise you to familiarize yourself with the iPod before driving, and only use the iPod while stopped.


  • Phatbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LazyBoy ( 128384 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @05:18PM (#15693902)
    Phatbox, an mp3 hard-drive box for the car, has had audio menus for years.

    It plugs into a CD changer interface and using the buttons on most head units, you can go forward/backward through playlists, genres, artists, albums, etc.

    It tells you where you are in the menus, so you don't have to look at it. (Another good reason is that the CD changer interface is not sophisticated enough to show that data on the head unit...)

    I think there's some alternative/oss text-to-speech sw out there, too.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...