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February 05, 2013

CereProc Pushes for More TTS Technology to Improve UK Public Services in 2013

By Allison Boccamazzo, TMCnet Web Editor

CereProc, a text-to-speech (TTS) technology provider, is self-described as a company that creates synthetic voices with character and personality designed to provide an engaging user experience and overall improved communication. The company is touted as leading the field of speech technology, where it is working to improve such things as accessibility to education and public resources. Now, the company is urging the U.K. government to continue to engage in improving this accessibility in 2013, as revealed yesterday in an official statement.

After a successful year of enhancing public services and user experience in 2012, CereProc is looking to further the improvement of these resources using TTS in 2013. “Having played a key role in a number of government funded projects in recent years, CereProc recognizes the challenges faced and potential benefits that exist through making public services and resources more approachable and open to a larger number of people,” the statement released yesterday explains.

For example, in 2012, CereProc worked with esteemed advisory agency JISC TechDis as part of the “Voices for Learners” initiative to help improve access to learning resources for disabled users. In doing so, the company was able to create two youthful and modern artificial voices at no cost to help strengthen the education space – for students and staff alike.

Chris Pidcock, chief voice engineer at CereProc, further elaborated on these 2012 successes, saying, “In 2012 we saw great improvements to accessibility in education and across the public services. Healthy investment pushed forward a number of schemes across the UK education system – such as the ‘Voices for Learners’ and ‘Scottish Voice’ projects – that help students and staff alike with disabilities to engage better with education, with their computers, and ultimately with the world they live in.”

He continued, “Similarly we’re seeing charities such as United Response successfully driving forward accessibility with recent projects such as Easy News, the first newspaper designed to be accessible for people with learning disabilities. With participants reporting the benefits and enhanced independence these solutions bring, we believe it’s crucial to maintain momentum and improve accessibility further and across wider areas of use to inspire a substantial change.”

CereProc has turned to and relied on funding from the U.K. government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) as well as the Scottish government in the past, which has brought about initiatives to better deliver synthetic voices that are “natural and full of character” as well as “capable of displaying emoticon and engaging users through regional accents,” the statement reveals.

The company has apparently seen great success with TTS technology for a variety of applications, including productivity, which thus supports individuals with visual or print impairments such as dyslexia. This also helps improve communication for those who are working on strengthening their English or who hold English as a second language.

“Challenged by the perceived stigma attached to using communication aids, together with the lack of engagement toward traditional synthetic voices that deliver speech using stark, unnatural and unfamiliar sounding accents, had resulted in a general unwillingness to make use of artificial voices and TTS technologies,” the statement explains.

“Put simply, accessibility is fundamental to the healthy existence and growth of the U.K. We would urge governing bodies to push forward accessibility as a key part of the public sector agenda and to support - or at the very least explore - text to speech and other advanced technologies as effective tools to improve accessibility to all public sector services and resources,” Pidcock concludes.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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