Let’s start with some positive news, shall we? On last Friday, I was able to finally create enough of a software lash-up to determine if Vocalizer Expressive would be viable for use on-air. While I wouldn’t have called the arrangement pretty, it was sufficient to prove the point. Yes, VE can be made to function over the radio pretty well. Some of the people listening found it quite intelligible, in fact. That’s good news because it says there’s hope that VE can do what Eloquence has done for years, and it is therefore worth working with.
Yes, that’s the good news. One of the guys did say it will need some EQ adjustments, not realizing how few controls are really available with VE. Speed and tone sliders are all there is. On my side though, I did notice some aspects that will really need to be addressed. Whether or not we can get a Nuance engineer to even give me the time of day is going to be the biggest issue. I know that Nuance’s position is going to be they are not interested in increasing their presence in the augmented and assisted communications market, and I certainly understand how incestuous it is. However, flexible high quality voice synthesis is critical to my daily living, and it is important that you and someone else in a position of some influence at Nuance begin to fully appreciate my need intellectually and emotionally. Nuance is currently more likely interested in simpler markets like being a component in automated phone systems. Places where flexibility isn’t a factor because everything you’ll ever need to synthesize is already known. That’s not my reality at all.
Naturally, companies exist to generate profit, and convincing them to revise products out of altruism is generally a non-starter. Yet, Nuance should start paying more attention to what’s going on, because voice synthesis of open-ended vocabularies is becoming more common. For example, several metropolitan fire departments, including Houston, are using it on their main fire and EMS channels, and what they’re using now would frighten you. The National Weather Service at least uses Eloquence or its equivalent on their transmitters. So there’s real money to be had in meeting the needs similar to mine.
One reason why Eloquence has been so damned hard to beat is because of Its history. Apologies if you already know this, but Eloquence was created by Cornell University for the DoD. It was very much a military project, and it was quite well aware of radio procedures. Eloquence knows the International Telegraphy Union phonetic alphabet, also used by hams and pilots. It understands how to recognize and pronounce ham callsigns. It even knows about arcana like “Q-signals.” VE has none of that. True, some of that can be migrated to my application, Xpress-It, but performance is also a major factor.
I cannot overstate the importance of minimizing latency, how quickly people tire of waiting for me to respond is scary. Of course I understand that using the highest resolution model, Premium Tom at 22KHz, constitutes the toughest test, but please understand that audio quality is also critical so I didn’t risk a lower resolution model.
Rachel, the reality is that I now really need a look at the source code for VEDEMO. I haven’t yet decided whether I am going to try replacing Eloquence with VE in the existing application or start fresh, and VEDEMO will help me choose. I’m also going to need access to the SDK again. That shouldn’t surprise you, as we aren’t in evaluation mode any longer. Back during the evaluation, I was scrupulous to not keep the installation package. However, we’re now entering the real-world of development, and I actually use two quite similar laptops. I understand that you’re not overly interested in my situation, but the bottom line is that Nuance has something I’m going to need and you’re my contact. If we can get someone in Engineering to care-or at least smell an opportunity for additional profits, I think we would all be happier.