Smartphones are becoming a bigger part of our lives, but the real trick will be making them a seamless part of our lives. This week we get a sneak preview of one Seattle startup’s effort to push the boundaries of text-to-speech technology, aiming to make it easier to access content and stay informed in a much wider variety of settings — without having to stare at a screen all the time.
Our guests on the GeekWire radio show are HearIt CEO Paul Simons and COO Matthew Markus. The company’s upcoming app will use the sharing function in Android devices to let users create a centralized playlist of articles, documents and other text for their phones to read aloud.
As Simons explains, it’s like a personalized radio station, letting users line up specific content to listen to when they’re driving, walking or otherwise not able to look at a screen. It’s the next step beyond the company’s existing iHear Network app for Android.
We’ve seen a number of apps along these lines, most recently Umano, a past GeekWire App of the Week that uses real humans to read a selection of articles. The challenge with that approach, in the view of the HearIt execs, is that it doesn’t scale, and isn’t as flexible.
HearIt uses computerized voices, making it possible to read any piece of text — even articles from technical journals and other obscure text that a relatively small number of people might want to listen to. Computerized voices are becoming more and more natural, and Markus says the company is betting that they will become much tougher to distinguish from human voices over time.
As loyal Android users, they also give us their perpective on the evolution of Google’s smartphone platform, and tips for people who might be looking for an Android device.
That conversation begins in the second segment, at the 8:00 mark, following our weekly news roundup. Topics this week include
- A recap of the GeekWire Awards (including the great “Adventure of the Startup Kid” video by Killer Infographics)
- The city’s new Startup Seattle initiative,
- The sale of Clipboard to Salesforce.com,
- And the new Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone for Verizon.
App of the Week: SeatGeek for iPhone and iPad.
Listen to the show above or via this MP3 file.