Pocket, the leading app for saving articles to read later, has a new voice, the voice of Amazon Polly. And it’s good enough that you just might actually want to use it.
Not for fiction or poetry or anything that relies on tone. But Polly is natural enough that you can forget for a sentence or two that you’re listening to a robot. That’s enough to make most articles, and even some personal essays, tolerable on text-to-speech.
Polly is much better than Instapaper’s voice, and better than iOS’s VoiceOver (currently the only text-to-speech option on the Kindle iOS app). Instapaper’s voice sounds like an old-timey robot, which is too distracting for even the driest texts. VoiceOver sounds more like a person, but a person who’s still learning to read. Listening to both, I couldn’t pay attention to the actual material.
At first I couldn’t pay attention with Polly either, but once I let her fade into the background — the way you would if you listened while doing errands — something flipped in my mind, and I could focus on what she was saying instead of her voice.
She still trips up over pronunciations, and like any current speechbot, she can’t tell that some sentences want to be read differently than others. But she doesn’t grate at me like the other speechbots.
One last caveat: I don’t know why, but Pocket’s text-to-speech doesn’t recognise some articles. But even with that limitation, it’s still better than all the others.
I’m not going to strongly recommend that you let a bot read articles to you. Personally I believe you should find some podcasts, and save your reading for actual reading. Give the speechbots a few more years to improve. But if you’re really excited for text-to-speech — or, of course, if reading visually is not an option for you — then you should choose Polly.