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Festival

Programming Silence OUT!

Voice-recognition software: one step closer to HAL.

Author's note: A blast from the past. My Cooking With Linux column from July 2001 issue of Linux Journal.

Is that not wonderful, François? Ever since I was a young boy, even before I thought of opening this restaurant, I have wanted something like this. I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, listening to the voice of HAL 9000 and thinking, “That is what I need. A talking computer.” Years later, I suddenly realized that I still did not have my talking computer. Well, today, mon ami, we are going to change all that.

What? Our guests have arrived? Welcome, mes amis, to Chez Marcel. I am so happy you could come today. We have some wonderful items on our menu for the programmer who has programmed everything. Please, sit and François will bring you some wine. François, go to the cellar and fetch the 1996 Hill of Grace from Australia.

Get comfortable, mes amis. You are going to love this wine. Ah, merci, François. Please, pour for our guests.

I was telling François that we should have talking computers everywhere by now, but my Linux workstation spends its time in silence. For reasons that I cannot fathom, none of the software on my system seemed to be speech-enabled. So, for all of today's recipes, you will need a sound card in your system, properly configured, as well as a microphone.

The Center for Speech Technology Research (CSTR) at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland had just what I needed to start down the road to my own talking computer. By surfing over to this address, http://www.cstr.ed.ac.uk/projects/festival/, you'll find a fascinating project called Festival.

Festival is a multilingual speech synthesis system. It is capable of text-to-speech work with multiple voices. With its API design, it can be incorporated into numerous other programs and applications. You'll see what I mean as we explore this package.

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