The origin of idea
During one night, I had a funny idea. What if Twitter users can include a special hashtag to have their tweets be read out loud by strangers?
Could this provide an interesting mechanism to transform a vast amount of text feed into audible human conversations and perhaps add additional layer of information (such as emotional intelligence) that was not present before?
Based on this premise, I built a working prototype based on following thought process.
Role of speech
Traditionally, speech function helps convey information and express social relationships. The list below summarizes all of its roles:
Expressive - express speaker's feelings
Directive - get others to do things
Referential - provide information
Metalinguistic - comments on language
Poetic - aesthetic language
Phatic - language for solidarity and empathy
Where the inspiration came from
This experiment was partially inspired by a project that I was apart of called Audil
, an environmental system for the visually impaired.
One of the pain points we've identified during a course of testing is that blind people have virtually no choice when it comes to how information is disseminated to them. For example, computer speech synthesis software is used frequently throughout the day to absorb information and interact with the world. However, this technology also creates social disparity between the visually impaired and the people who are not. We felt that we can design technology in a way that brings people together rather than to simply subtitute human presence with technology.
Another inspiration came from an app called Umano. The app is essentially an audiobook for blogs—where a voice actor would read a blog post out aloud. It's particularly useful when you're driving because you can catch up on blog posts without the need to stare at RSS reader.
Umano distinguishes itself from a competitor, SoundGecko
, which utilizes server-sided dictation software to read articles and documents. Umano instead relies on professional voice actors and announcers to read the articles out loud.
In terms of listening experience, voice algorithms of SoundGecko cannot compete with Umano's crowdsourced system to fine-tune tonality, speed and pitch to make the content seemingly more interesting to our brain.
How it works
Amazon Mechanical Turk worker reads instructions below.
Worker opens Google Spreadsheet with latest tweets with hashtag #tweet2voice.
Worker then calls toll-free number (VoIP) and reads the tweet out loud.
Line2 voicemail notification email with MP3 attachment is sent.
ITTT identifies email with attachment, places MP3 into Dropbox folder and then uploads MP3 to SoundCloud and Tumblr.
Admin tweets SoundCloud link to the original Twitter user.
Instructions for Amazon Mechanical Turk
Summary: You will be calling a toll-free number and reading a statement out loud for the voicemail.
Go to this link.
Find a statement next to "No."
Call the toll-free number at 888-XXX-XXXX.
When the voicemail beeps, begin reading the statement out loud. Please be expressive when speaking. You can simply read, exaggerate a bit or be emotional, angry, happy, funny, weird, etc.
When completed, type replace "No" with "Yes" next to the statement you just spoke.
Insert the current date and time (in Pacific Time Standard) under "Date & Time Submitted."
Finally, check the box below and submit.
I have called the number and left a voicemail according to the instructions.