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My Android Speaks Sweet SMS to Me

I mentioned in an earlier post the convenience of having your SMS message popup even when the screen is locked, well how about having the message spoken to you when it arrives? There is really no technical reason why it can’t come to fruition considering Android has a Text-to-Speech (TTS) app that can be downloaded and there are already apps that take advantage of TTS.

Using the phone in the car

This past weekend I found a new app called SMSpeaker, made by the same people that brought you Speaking Pad. It costs $.99 from the Android Marketplace which made it a difficult decision to test, but for the good of all G1 users I decided to give it a go.

Once installed, the app does exactly what it says. When a new SMS message comes in, it is read aloud. Pretty straight forward. You can also have it repeat the message if you missed by simply tapping the screen. This will come in handy with the newest California law banning texting and driving. Here is a video of the SMSpeaker app in use.

While testing, I found the app very handy if your phone is sitting across the room because you can now hear the SMS message and who sent it. This also brings up a word of caution because the SMS message may not necessarily be something you want other people to hear. Take for example, you may be planning a surprise party for your girlfriend or making arrangements for a boys night out which you really do not want read out loud.  On the otherhand, it could be an interesting intercom-like system to send audio messages to your wife or kids. As with any app that comes out, you can adapt it how you see fit.

There are other Android apps that could benefit from TTS integration. Take for example Twidroid or any Twitter app for Android. Short 140 character tweets are ideal for TTS, but there would need to be some filter on which tweets are spoken so you hear the ones that are from those twits you would want to literally hear from.  If the implementation is right, this is an app I could imagine paying for.

Taking the Next Step

As with Augmented Reality, we are only scratching the surface of the benefits TTS will bring especially for those with imparied or degraded vision. My father, for example, wears glasses for reading and has a lot of trouble reading his Blackberry because his glasses are not always around. I saw this first hand a few months back as he was struggling to read the small screen and text. Imagine being able to simply click on a message and have it read out to you.

So while all of these touch screen phones have brought a great user interface , where does that leave those that are unable to see the screen? The developers of SMSpeaker are already pushing ahead with more apps that will bring benefits to an audience larger than the everyday mobile phone user. 

Photo Credit: Tim Caynes

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  1. February 25, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I’m interested in seeing more speech to text apps. I have played around with the TeleNav for a few days and their speech recognition is pretty good. It would be nice if there was a system level speech control.

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