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New Voices for Your Chromebook!

by Allan Wilson

on Wed Apr 17, 2019

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Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular in Scottish schools, partly because they are relatively easy to manage and also because they turn on very quickly so there's no need to wait for the device to boot up. However, the limited range of built-in voices has been a disadvantage for learners with additional support needs who need to use text-to-speech. The latest version (V73) of the Chrome operating system makes more eSpeak and Acapela voices available for use.

An additional UK English Google voice has been added, providing a choice, now, between male and female voices. Google has added a new speech engine that can access eSpeak voices (primarily for Asian and East European countries, by default). To access these voices, first make sure that you have installed the latest version of the Chrome operating system. Then go to your Text to Speech Settings in Accessibility:

1. Click on the 'time' at the bottom right corner of the screen to get the system menu.

2. Click on the Settings cog to get the Main Menu for Settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Click on the Main Menu (three horizontal lines in the top left of the window), then click on Advanced, followed by Accessibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Now click on Manage Accessibility Features, then find Text-to-Speech and click on Text-to-Speech Voice Settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Speech Properties, you can change Rate, Pitch and Volume of the speech, but for the moment, we'll focus on choosing a voice - scroll down to Preview and click on Voice to Preview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to the individual voices and choose the voice you want to use as your Preferred Voice.

Broadening the range of eSpeak Voices

The full range of eSpeak voices are not available by default, but if you scroll down to Speech Engines and click on Settings for eSpeechNG text-to-speech extension you will be able to access the full range (including a Scottish male voice and English regional voice and add them to the available voices. The eSpeak voices are not of the highest quality, with some sounding quite robotic - hardly surprising as they are based on technology developed in the 1990s - but there is a broad range, so they are certainly worth investigating. If you find a voice you want to use, select it as your Preferred Voice for English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Installing an Acapela Voice

Acapela produce a wide range of high quality voices, so having them available for the Chromebook is definitely good news. You need to install the free Acapela TTS extension in order to access the Acapela voices. Make sure that the extension is active on your Chromebook by clicking on the Customise and Control icon (three dots at the top right of the Chrome browser), then More Tools and Extensions.

Assuming the Acapela extension is active, go back to Speech Engines under Text-to-Speech Voice Settings and you should see the Acapela TTS Engine. Click on this to see the list of around 100 voices available to purchase and download. There are a number of UK English voices available, costing £5.09 or £6.39 each. People in Scotland should definitely consider the Rhona voice. You can click on the Play button to hear the individual voices, then click on the Basket button to buy it. Once you have bought the voice, you will be able to select it as your Preferred Voice for English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Text-to-Speech on a Chromebook

The voices were tested primarily with the Chromebook's built-in ChromeVox screenreader and Select to Speak text to speech tool. Information on using these is available in the Hear text read aloud page of the Chromebook Help site.

We also tried the new voices successfully with the following extensions:

ClaroRead Chrome

SpeakIt

 

 

Tags: chromebook, text-to-speech

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