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As anyone in the speech industry will tell you, text-to-speech (TTS) engines are stout workhorses that perform a variety of vital tasks in any number of vertical markets around the world.  

But regardless of what a TTS engine is doing—be it converting the written content of a Web site into an audio file for the visually impaired, reading out important information and updates on the subway, or providing customers with assistance via an interactive voice response system—the technology had never truly reached its utilitarian zenith.

That was until the debut of Talking Gadget Theater on DVICE.com.

Talking Gadget Theater features the thespian talents of Amazon’s Kindle 2, powered by voice technologies from Nuance Communications, and Apple’s iPod Shuffle, powered by Apple’s own VoiceOver screen-reading technology. Together, the two devices re-create some of the best and most-loved scenes from science-fiction movies—all via the magic of TTS technology.

DVICE—a part of the Sci-Fi Online Network—currently offers three amazing installments of Talking Gadget Theater.

In their debut performance, Kindle 2 and iPod Shuffle re-create a scene from Blade Runner, with the former playing the part of Holden and the latter playing Leon. Smoking in a dark interrogation room, Holden—imagine the character from the movie with a Kindle for his head—grills the mustachioed Leon—imagine the character from the movie with an iPod Shuffle for a head.  

In the second installment, the gadgets re-create a scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with Kindle playing the part of Khan and iPod Shuffle playing James T. Kirk. Again imagine the characters from the movie with speech-enabled devices in place of their heads. However, this time around, both gadgets offer more nuanced, passionate performances: As Khan, Kindle delivers a significant amount of menace and wears a silver wig, while the choppy cadence of iPod Shuffle’s TTS actually sounds a lot like William Shatner’s Kirk.  

In the most recent episode of Talking Gadget Theater, Kindle—playing the part of Darth Vader—and iPod Shuffle—playing the part of Luke Skywalker—perform a classic scene from Star Wars (Episode V): The Empire Strikes Back.  As steam rises and his red light saber glows, a helmeted Kindle 2 stands over the injured iPod Shuffle and steals the scene. “I’m your father,” Kindle TTS says. “Search your feelings. You know it to be true.”  

And then, as iPod Skywalker refuses to join Darth Kindle and casts himself down the air shaft, we—the audience, nay the entire speech industry itself—watch in rapt wonder, waiting for the next installment, for the next chance to see TTS at its finest.

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