O’Reilly blog entries [example] now feature a small “Listen” icon to the right of each article. Clicking it causes a widget to start reading the page to you in a very smooth/natural synthesized voice. This is all real-time — it’s not like they’re having someone read and record every article on the site. A company called ReadSpeaker provides the software that makes this possible.
The obvious application is for non-sighted users. But wait – blind users already have screen readers set up, or they wouldn’t be using the web to begin with. So who is this for? Sighted users who want to close their eyes for a few minutes? That seems like a very limited application.
While pondering this, it hit me: ReadSpeaker’s widget only works on specially enabled web sites. Imagine a FireFox plugin or browser extension that, when clicked, would run the text of any page through a voice synthesizer like the one O’Reilly is using, but pipe the output silently to MP3 in the background, then load the generated file into my podcast aggregator. All day long I could “tag for voice” various web pages that I wished I had the time to read. When I sync’d my iPod before leaving for work, I’d have all that missed content on it, ready for the road.
Yes, Young Edisons, this is a business opportunity. Run with it.
Update: MacDevCenter blogger David Battino sampled the audio output of an entry and mashed it up into a little song. Says MP3 output is on the way from ReadSpeaker.