Accoona Launches ‘Talking Search Bar’
Say what you will about Accoona, they are a bit different when it comes to launching new products and promotions. Accoona (Matata) has released a talking search toolbar which features text-to-speech technology that enables users to highlight English-language text on the Internet to be read aloud.
Besides being perfect for those who are too lazy (or who’s eyes are too tired) to read, Accoona says that they have designed the feature for global Internet users who want to learn and pronounce English or enhance their English-language skills as a second language. Well now you’ve got my attention, as a part-time English language and conversation tutor, I’m compelled to give the Accoona talking toolbar a try. I have not installed a toolbar in a long time, and Accoona Talking Toolbar seems to only be available in IE.
However, once I downloaded and installed the Accoona toolbar I immediately went to highlight and listen to some text only to find out that another piece of software must be downloaded and I have to register for a 60 day free trial to use the ‘Talking Search Bar’ function.
Instead of signing up for the service I choose to listen to some sample files which are crisp and clear, but take a while to set up as the default function to listen to them is to open up my Media Player and then I’m allowed to listen to the text. Wow, those are a lot of steps to give Accoona a try.
Given the hardship I’ve already put myself through going through the toolbar and file sample download and installation process, I decide that I’m halfway there and go ahead with signing up for the free trial. So, I go ahead and download the extra software needed, reset Internet Explorer, go to a post on SEJ, highlight and hit the Talk button on Accoona’s toolbar and you know what? It’s brilliant!
The voice is crisp, clear and despite a couple of mistakes here and there with tone accentuation, is quite understandable. I do believe that I will do some more testing but am for the most part satisfied with the Talking Search Bar. Now I can sit back, drink coffee, close my eyes and listen to the search engine news of the day. Will I use this toolbar for the long term, probably not – but I understand how such a tool could be useful to some Internet users and those studying English listening comprehension.
More from Accoona:
The application also can used by U.S. and U.K. pre-schoolers, elementary-school students and others first learning to read English, such as English as a second language or adult literacy students. Accoona’s Talking Search Bar provides a human-quality, natural voice, combining search technology with an easy-to-use text-to-speech feature. The technology can convert any Web page text into speech. Users simply select the content they want to read — from headlines and news articles to weather reports and stock quotes — and the Talking Search Bar’s text-to-speech technology will transform it. The Talking Search Bar’s voice is as smooth and natural sounding as the human voice. After installing the Talking Search Bar, users choose between a male or female voice that will read highlighted text, complete with proper inflection points.
“The Talking Search Bar is the next step in the fast-accelerating evolution of Accoona as one of the Web’s premier search engines,” said Accoona CEO Stuart Kauder. “With each step in Accoona’s development, which started with the introduction of our artificial intelligence-based search technology, we’re striving to enhance the Web experience for Accoona’s users. Now, Internet browsers worldwide will be able to ‘read’ English through the Accoona Talking Search Bar. The utility of the technology is virtually limitless — for everyone from toddlers and school-age children in the U.S. just learning to read, to Web browsers in France and China who want to read and learn English.”
The benefits of the technology include extending English-language learning skills to a global audience, providing hands-free information from favorite Web sites and enabling “proofreading” of personally created Web pages. Kauder also noted the Talking Search Bar’s simplicity as there is no need to copy and paste text into a separate window.