I’ve tried out several different tools at a time (almost 2 years ago!), some of them the result on academic research, and a few are for free. While there is really no much choice (and I found none for the Mac or Linux), the results are not much impressive. We’ll have to wait until this technology develops further (in 2 years of development, for example, the differences are not noticeable).

Text-to-speech looks (sounds?) much more promising. While demo’ing things like Rhetorical (now acquired by Nuance, http://www.nuance.com/, and called “RealSpeak”) and Oddcast (http://www.oddcast.com/home/), I was much more impressed. RealSpeak is far better in terms of quality (from the demos at least) but it should be incredibly costly. Oddcast is still too expensive for the average user, but it’s targetted to the medium-to-low market at least.

What this means is that at least on that front you’ll be able to use one of those technologies to “give voice” to your Orc avatar with ease. Of course, you’ll still be slightly handicapped, as people using their natural voice will be able to talk 4 times as quicklier as you can type. I believe that with a good combination of shortcuts (we’d need a better “gesture” system though) you’d be able to almost keep a “normal-speed” conversation using this. Definitely a “middle-way” solution. I suggested to Philip a long time ago that they looked into Rhetorical (now RealSpeak) and integrated it into SL whenever they wished to introduce voice chat in Second Life; “corporate pricing” would eventually allow LL to deploy something like that very cost-effectively, and in turn LL would be able to charge, say, an extra dollar or two per month for people wishing to use TTS. Both technologies allow you to get your “personalized voice” as well for a fee; so that would very likely be feasible (mind you, since this would be embedded into the SL client, it would be as low-bandwidth as regular text chat…).

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