New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

This is one of those crossover stories, which belongs both here and in my The Measured Circle blog!

You can now use your

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to listen to text-to-speech!

This is a huge development for me, and it will be for other people.

People with print disabilities, for example, can use the Echo to read a book…and making the request verbally may be a lot easier than using a tablet. It also means they don’t need to have a tablet.🙂

I would expect it to come to the

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

soon (it wasn’t there right now)…meaning that a print disabled  person could have a TTS device for under $50.

It’s very simple. Just say, “Alexa, read The War of the Worlds” or whatever book is in your Cloud which has not had text-to-speech access blocked by the publisher (and has text…graphic novels usually aren’t accessible to TTS even if the publisher doesn’t take an action to block it).

It also means that kids can have Alexa read to them…no, I don’t think that’s the same as a loving adult reading to them, but it could still be good developmentally, and might really help with kids with certain learning disabilities as they sight-read and listen at the same time.

You can tell which books you have with TTS available by going to the Alexa app and going to

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – Kindle Books

You can see more details in my post in The Measured Circle:

New to Alexa/the Echo: movie times and making phone calls…and text-to-speech!

Enjoy!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

7 Responses to “New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!”

  1. Tom Semple Says:

    We played with Echo TTS a little. It seemed ‘Alexa’ became a little hard of hearing and would not respond as readily to ‘alexa’ keyword: had to walk over and yell a bit. Also without navigation (ability to skip back to beginning of a chapter, skip back 30 seconds etc.) it may be a little hard to use. But these are all things that can be refined over time.

    Yes, I’m hopeful that this Alexa skill will come to Fire TV/Fire TV Stick. Both of my (1st gen) Fire TV devices are listed by the Alexa app but so far the app cannot get them to do anything. However, both have been eligible for Fire OS 5 beta program, so there is an update in the works, which I think may well add Alexa capabilities to both. I missed the chance to get Fire TV for $84.99 last week, and after I learned of the new features I was going to buy it (mostly to replace my Stick, which is having serious WiFi issues since we replaced carpet with hardwood flooring!), but by then it had gone back to $99, so at this point I’ll just wait to see what the update brings. I don’t think there’s any technical reason they can’t be updated. After all Echo itself is not as powerful as these 1st gen Fire TV devices.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thank for writing, Tom!

      You can do “Alexa, skip forward,” and “Alexa, skip back.” I haven’t tested that yet, though…I don’t know if it’s 30 seconds or a chapter, and if the former, if you could specify skipping or next chapter.

      I wonder if it was having trouble telling a human voice from its own voice…that would be interesting.

      I fully expect movies and TTS to come to the 2nd gen Fire TV family…we’ll see what happens with gen 1s.

      My Kindle Fire HDX recently got a message saying that the Fire 5 update is coming…

      • Tom Semple Says:

        It appears Amazon sent upgrade letters to some HDX owners in error, and has since sent a retraction letter (see Nate Hoffelder’s blog). I think maybe only 2014 HDX8.9 is getting Fire OS 5. But I’m only an onlooker to this, we’ll have to wait to see what they actually deliver. The 2014 HD6 and HD7 are definitely getting it (they originally promised ‘by end of year’ but that’s come and gone).

        Yes, I had not had a chance to read the full Help for TTS. If it is to be believed, one can jump forward or back by paragraph by any of several key words (next/previous, skip back/skip forward, go back/go forward). And you can use the Alexa app to navigate chapters. It quite pointedly does not refer to the type of device ‘Read Kindle books with Alexa’ works with, so again, it seems likely to come to Fire TV, and certainly to the apparently forthcoming ‘portable’ Echo (as unofficially reported today).

        And actually, the only thing I have tried so far was to send to our Fire TV was a TTS task, which it refused to do. Yet the fact that it lists these devices in the first place has me thinking they may already be upgraded and capable of some other Alexa-powered behaviors (as opposed to the simple STT search it originally did). I’ll try those in a little while.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        I’ve switched to Gen 2 Fire TV devices, so I can’t test that any more. The G2s have gotten more capabilities over time.

        And yes, you’ve described the HDX situation correctly, I think.

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    So I tried out more of the Alexa app functions with my Fire TV Stick – there’s still nothing hooked up.

  3. Tom Semple Says:

    First gen Fire TVs have been updated and now have Alexa (feature-wise, it seems like it is about where Echo was when it first shipped). Does not support TTS or Audible yet.

    By the way, the Washington Post app for Fire tablets supports TTS now!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      After we talked a bit about text-to-speech in the WaPo app, it did show up back in 2015…you can see it in the comments here:

      https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/washington-post-free-on-kindle-fire/

      I haven’t tried it in a while, though. When it first came in, as I recall, it had to be started separately for each article.

      I have Alexa on my first gen Fire TV Stick (and on my second gen Fire TV)…but I don’t have a voice remote for the Fire Stick…

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