CereProc Signs on for New UK Education Initiative Using Speech

U.K. advisory service JISC TechDis today formally launched TechDis Voices, two synthetic voices created in partnership with text-to-speech (TTS) company CereProc for use in the education system throughout England.

Announced by John Hayes, minister of state for further education, skills, and lifelong learning, the development of the TechDis Voices, funded by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, serves to make youthful and modern voices freely available throughout the further, higher, and continuing education sectors.

Working in collaboration, JISC TechDis and CereProc developed the voices—one male, Jack, and one female, Jess—to encourage the use of TTS tools among students, staff, and lifelong learners throughout the education system in England.

"We're delighted that the TechDis voices have had such fantastic reception at this year's Go On: NDC 2012. A truly multifaceted project in terms of application and user benefits, it's great to have the backing of John Hayes and to be given such a fantastic stage to launch the TechDis voices among an audience with such an open and forward-thinking attitude," explained Paul Welham, CEO of CereProc, in a statement.

Primarily designed to support individuals who require assistive and alternative communication aids for speech output and visually impaired users dependent upon the TTS technology to access educational resources, the TechDis voices also serve as a tool to improve productivity when embedded into wider mainstream multichannel practices.

CereProc carried out intensive research, selection, and a period of beta testing among active users to ascertain the most effective and well-received voices.

Explaining the significance of the TechDis Voices, Alistair McNaught, senior advisor at JISC TechDis, added in the statement: "Text-to-speech has been very poorly used in the education sector. We believe that by having learner-focused voices that learners themselves have helped to choose we can transform its mainstream acceptance and availability."

"We are hoping that Jess and Jack will help bring text-to-speech out of the shadows and into the light of mainstream education provision. There are so many benefits for so many different types of people," concluded Sal Cooke, director of JISC TechDis.

Free to access for education users, the voices are available for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and compatible with screen readers and many other widely used applications.

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