Speech Central: Web Text to Speech

Once upon a time I used an app called VoiceBrief, I loved it! But it was buggy, often crashing and it never got updated before finally disappearing from the App Store. I have recommended the likes of ‘Capti’ and ‘Pocket’ to learners to curate material and listen on the go (we always have places to go and listening on the go can increase productivity) but I have never come across any app that came close to VoiceBrief, certainly some could read web pages but I never found them able to read from social media and certainly not effectively. Fast forward a few years and I  am commuting more than ever and consuming so much audio media I have been finding it more difficult to access new content having exhausted most material. The app allows you to listen to key headlines and then, when interested, add the headlines as articles to read [out] in full later, with the app highlighting the tezt as it is read out. The app is straightforward and does not have a big learning curve, but what really appeals to me is how much you can customise the app – including the voice and controls.

The developer States that “The app is tested to be accessible by visually impaired users. It has many features specifically tailored to users with disabilities like integrated Bookshare service, support for DAISY books, dyslexia friendly font, many visual settings, keyboard shortcuts for the most of commands available (with various options to navigate the text) in the app and on the iPhone it can be controlled with headphone or Bluetooth hands-free buttons and functions of those buttons can be customized. Combined with the interactive web feature available in the app the latter may make the web much easier to access on the mobile device for a person with eyesight or related disability.”

The ability to skip and add articles via the remote is an excellent feature and really increases the usability of the app.  This is an app that I feel is going to really play a key role in my commute once I return after the summer break, or for anyone that can take the opportunity to consume content on the go and not just for the accessibility benefits the app offers.

Here are the app store pages for Speech Central:

The App Developer has provided me with this product for purposes of providing a personal review and I have received no payment for this unbiased review.

DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset

DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset

VR (Virtual Reality) is definitely on the horizon and one of the ‘next big things’ in the world of interactive entertainment and educational technologies. From exploring terrains or areas that learners would not be exposed to or the mountain of risk assessment alone making it impossible can suddenly transport your learners from differing perspectives such as helicopter rides over London to distant lands and the rim of a live volcano and onto an on-stage presence at gig or musical. Coupled with an immersive audio experience is one hell of a ride! but i shudder at this future and fear for the learners that will feel my pain – literally!

So why the negativity? well a fact about me, I get physically sick when playing 3D games! Now this may seem daft, especially teaching (albeit in the recent past) game 3d engines. But I have never been able to get beyond it, this is a huge concern to the likes of the military that whilst saving a fortune by having their personnel train in VR environments there are those that still need the real thing due to suffering debilitating nausea. Something like 1% feels any ill affects withe 0.1% of those having physical reactions -its worthy of research to further make savings. I for one would welcome any solution (even in part). I am rarely able to play more than say 30 minutes before feeling queasy – often physically ill, and recovering for over 6 hrs+. To just be able to play Minecraft with my little boy would makehis day, and not have him feel guilty when I do play and have to stop due to illness. But there are other worse than me, even being set off by waterways and supermarkets (I kid you not – read the art5icle on the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-38715719 )

So despite all the ill-feeling I splashed out on a reasonably priced  DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset, it fits my iPhone 6 Plus (without case), is well constructed and has the Magnetic switch (a must in my opinion s  for low end, low cost VR goggles). Fantastic device, if a little uncomfortable at the bridge of the nose it has allowed me(and my six year old) to go ‘wow’ at VR. Don’t get me wrong VR is still in early days (we dare not mention the flash in the pan 3D TV) but for sub £30 its a worthy expense. Yes it makes me sick but to have a ‘go’ at VR that is although not matured is not exactly fledgling either and the price tag certainly does not make my blood boil when i suffer from ‘curiosity killed the cat’, here’s hoping that the earlier link bears some useful findings to support those like me.

So linking back to the educational aspect and all I hear about the fact that VR will play a part, well I am already seeing that I will be those in the minority and hope that ‘differentiation’ will be considered when there are not an insignificant amount of learners (and educationalists) that will break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of VR in an educational programme – beneficial or not! (there may be a surge in travel sickness remedies!)

Note: VR should not be something that you expose those under seven for any length of time!

Pocket App (& Capti Update)

Pocket Logo

 

https://getpocket.com/

Although I am the world worst for looking into new things there are those occasions when bookmarking is a pain (particularly between devices) when I am on the go and the worst aspect is that I simply do not have the time! Enter ‘Pocket’, a simple browser plugin and associated app that I am using with Chrome and my iOS devices that allows me to bookmark and recall wherever I am. The real sweet spot for me when using Pocket is the ability in most cases to Listen (TTS) Text-To-Speech  to the majority of pages I bookmark, meaning that I can listen to those relvant items on the go from my iPhone or iPad.

It doesn’t like PDF’s, but you can always pass them to Capti! [See previous blog post http://wp.me/pspi8-k9 ]

Capti Logo

Capti has seen a recent number of overhauls, not limited to the expansion of other systems it can interact with, originally…

  1. a browser
  2. clipboard
  3. GoogleDrive
  4. Dropbox.
  5. Instapaper
  6. Pocket
  7. Bookshare
  8. A existing document that is sent within your device

it can now interact as well with Gutenberg & OneDrive. More importantly Capti now has a system for bookmarking within a browser( not as nice as a Pocket icon it is a bookmark itself that you drag to your favourites, clikcin on the link will add the current page to your reading list. You can also elect or install Capti’s own software on your desktop or utilise the online system. See https://www.captivoice.com/capti-site/public/entry/download#

Current Top Apps [Mid 2015]

Whilst on the hunt for new apps I thought it worthwhile to revisit my list of top 10 favourite apps, in not particular order:

  1. Veescope Live: Green screen app for work and fun
  2. Periscope: live streaming, maybe a novelty but high hopes
  3. VLC Player: plays every video format and allows variable playback speed, good to export my ‘Opinions’ to
  4. iPlayer Radio: Great for an insomniac to listen to
  5. Plex: Stream home media content
  6. Tipping Point: a Game but so addicitive
  7. Facebook/Messenger: does what it says on tin!
  8. Find Friends: locate friends
  9. BBC News: does what it says on tin!
  10. Waze: Sat Nav with crowd sourced traffic updates
  11. Opinion: Simple audio record and edit (10 minuted free)

Honorable mentions (love but don’t use much or use due to necessity)

  1. RingR Mobile: high quality phone-call capture, great for use in podcasts or evidence based assessment
  2. WhatsApp: for those with iMessage, or with a preference
  3. Feedly: curated news content
  4. ScanLife / i-nigma: QR scanners
  5. WordPress: In the majority I edit on my desktop, but just occasionally this works well
  6. Capti: Read text as audio for on the go
  7. National Rail: Plan your trip end to end with updates on delays!
  8. Hootsuite: Scheduled Twitter posts
  9. My Measures: take a photo and add dimensions, great DIY tool
  10. Pogoplug: access files on home server, backup camera roll

Andy

 

Chirp

Chirp

A novel and interesting way to share content comes along in the form of Chirp, in the form of an App and as ‘Chirp for Chrome’, enabling you to share via audio your files and websites. An end to having to post URL’s to virtual learning environments or having to write on the board and hoping you get it right and learners do too? a method to move from desktop to mobile relatively seamlessly? or maybe just a lot of noise [sic]?

  1. find a site
  2. open chirp on mobile device (so it is listening)
  3. open chirp on desktop (have your audio turned up)
  4. click the chirp yellow button with the  “lightning” symbol

Most things such as PDFs or images can be saved to you device. Shame I cannot push websites to my browsers on my iPhone and have to remain in Chirp (I have certainly looked to see if I can on an iOS device) but the app is in early development. I also cannot send a site from my iPhone to Chirp for Chrome as it does not have a listen function currently – one to watch maybe?

Update: the above post was written without actually trailing in the field. This however has now been able to take place by chance rather than planning…

Working with Apprentice Learning Technologists I needed to discuss a number of videos that I had been given a link to a YouTube playlist. Unfortunately due to being at a different campus I had no phone near the desktop pc’s I could use and I really did not want to dig out my laptop unless necessary. This is where chirp came in – I installed the chrome extension, fired up my chirp app on my iPhone, chirped the link – I was then hotfooting it to a side office with phone where I could discuss points as I went through the playlist. Seamless.

 

Andy

MyScript Calculator (iOS)

MyScript Calculator is another great maths based app. Do you rememebr when you got told that you may not always have a calculator and had to understand how to calculate? or even that you needed to know a reasonable amount of syntax for a calculator to use it? well this app may be a game changer for some, a handwritten based calculator – put in your question and see your handwriting interpreted and a result given.

 

Available for both iOS and Android this app is quick to use and easy to make adjustments by just scribbling out a number and overwriting, for more info see here – http://www.myscript.com/calculator/

 

Andy

Photomath (iOS)

 

I have to say this is an app that has a lot of potential, aim the app at a printed (not handwrittedn) problem and not only see the answer but see the steps that are needed to reach the solution. Available for iOS, Android and Windows devices this could be a boon or a bane!

Check out the ‘examples’ page of the website and have a go for yourself – https://photomath.net/en/examples

 

Andy

Periscope

Streaming is going mainstream with Twitters Periscope, a streaming app that allows for you to title and stream video and audio from you mobile device (both iOS & Android). Followers get notifed of your stream and can comment via text and tap the screen to show appreciation of your content in the form of rising hearts! It’s early days for Periscope but it has already added the functionality of maps to the app so that you can identify stream locations. Other functionality ….

  • Your own streams
    • Provide a stream title
    • Enabling location
    • Restrict to invitees
    • Restrict to followers
    • Tweet new stream
    • Change between front and rear cameras (swipe down)
    • Hide chat (swipe left)
    • Save to camera roll upon completion of stream
    • Identify viewers
    • Identify replays
  • Share watched streams

Currently plans are afoot to “scope” from the upcoming eFair 2015 on the 3rd of July (no necessarily from my Twitter account) #efair2015

I can see in recent weeks that it’s popularity has eased off, my first “scope” had 50 viewers, I’m lucky if I get double figures currently. An interesting video relating to Periscope and its future is worth watching at “The Speed of Outrage: Tom Scott at Thinking Digital 2015“. Whilst I feel it makes valid points regarding reaction times I do disagree with the prediction that Periscope will not be the winner for a number of reasons…

  1. Meerkat was first, clearly stating that Twitters Periscope followed
  2. It is already being further developed
  3. It’s backed by Twitter that have a few pennies in the bank
  4. Twitter was the first “micro-blogging” and seems to have remained relatively stable and the leader (and had evolved since its inception)
  • Will it become as popular as twitter? maybe not.
  • Is streaming going to become mainstream? highly likely.
  • Will something do it better than Periscope? Maybe.

That’s the problem with future tech predictions, they are just predictions. At best they turn out to be right, at worst we laugh at how wrong they were – in the end nobody really cares other than looking for YouTube Clips of Tomorrow’s World and the elusive Hover Car, Personal Jet-pack and Robotic Assistant. For further info see https://www.periscope.tv/

Andy

Post Capture Green Screen Editing

Capturing directly into an app has its advantages, as soon as you get it right you are good to go, but it does bring its problems:

  • It can be time consuming getting it right
  • Artifacts can creep in that you dont find out until later
  • Or you actually find a better background
  • You just may not like using an App
  • or don’t want to limit your options and may have a second camera available

Capturing the ‘real’ footage, green screen an all still allows you fake your scene through post capture editing. There are a range of great software options such as iMovie or Adobe Premiere but you need the hardware or software at a cost. A budget option is VSDC, it’s free (be careful when installing as it pays for itself through bundled software that you can choose to not install).

It’s not the most intuitive of software but their are plenty of Youtube video tutorials to guide you through, with two of the best covering basic chroma-keying and layering:

Andy