If I told you that there was a service that can read (print) news and blogs automatically and convert them to speech, would you be interested or would you run away? Frankly, I would have done the latter, as the prospect of a robo-voice reading articles without any human emotional inflection does not sound too appealing.
But being a software reviewer, I gave the Vocalyze service a try, and was extremely impressed.
Vocalyze lets you choose from a wide range of text articles and news sources, and delivers them in voice, podcast style. It can be run as a web app on your computer and is available a a free app for iPhone and Android.
I have seen many work environments where ‘knowledge workers’ (i.e. workplaces with coders, developers, analysts, and the like) spend their workday with music or spoken audio content constantly streaming into headphones. I am addicted to podcasts myself, and tend to have something playing into headphones for approx. half my working hours. If you are like me, then Vocalyze can be very useful to you, because despite the proliferation of podcasts, audiobooks, and the like, the overwhelming majority of content out there on the internet is text-based.
How it works: from the ‘my playlist’ tab, choose among many pre-established categories, then select individual content sources (e.g. Technology then Gizmodo). You can create your own stream of content by integrating your ReadItLater account. You could also follow people on Twitter or listen to all the people that follow you on Twitter.
The verdict: the Vocalyze text-to-speech component is extremely well done. If you really want to convert articles to podcast style audio, Vocalyze works like magic, and is probably the best you could expect short of someone actually reading the articles for you.
The other two things that make Vocalyze a winner are (a) the ability to create your own channel via ReadItLater (and Twitter), and (b) it’s support for (free) apps for the iPhone and Android. The only drawback I could see in comparison to downloadable podcasts is that (unlike podcasts, which can be pre-downloaded) — you have to be connected to the internet to take advantage of the service.
Lastly, I should note that Vocalyze works best with ‘chatty’, news type article, and less so with how-to or list type articles that might rely heavily on screenshots, and that when converted to speech, tend to have lots of stops and starts. Overall, Vocalyze is a winner
[Thanks to reader Panzer for the tip about this great service]
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