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.

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CEO Paul Simons and COO Matthew Markus of Seattle startup HearIt in the KIRO studios. (Erynn Rose photo.)

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

App of the Week: SeatGeek for iPhone and iPad.

Listen to the show above or via this MP3 file.

GeekWire airs on 97.3 KIRO-FM in Seattle at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. every Saturday, except when preempted by live sports. The show runs every weekend on GeekWire.com. You can receive every episode using this RSS feed, or subscribe in iTunes. Also find us on Stitcher.

 

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

    I’m addicted to the HearIt app. Feels like a secret weapon for keeping up on articles I wish I had time to read. I listen to GeekWire articles almost every day using HearIt while I drive.

  • Guest

    I am going to check it out. Voice apps are smart the there will be a huge uplift in smart voice companies creating value out of dead time.

  • http://twitter.com/timreha Tim Reha

    Great feature. I will check it out. Voice is a huge space that will be the next wave of the web with Hypervoice and WEBRTC. Thanks to SURF Incubator I met the team and wish them luck.

  • Hakon Verespej

    Way to go Paul and team! When is it coming to iOS? ;)

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