See that listen now button above each post? Dr. Z turned me on to a very cool text-to-speech service he recently added to drzreflects.com (take a drink).
Odiogo creates a free audio podcast from RSS feeds. It's super easy to install. Just sign-up by providing your email and blog address then follow a few simple steps customized for Blogger, TypePad, or other blog services. I really expected it to be at least a bit more complicated. It wasn't. Odiogo installs a widget alongside your blog layout so people can subscribe to the content as an audio podcast, and it adds a "listen now" button above each post (old and new). Voila! Done.
The quality of the synthesized voice is impressive. It seems to correctly pronounce Diigo (not quite so good with Magda, however). It speaks the abbreviated letters C S T as Central Standard Time. It even announces the beginning and end of quotes (not just in quotation marks but those formatted with the HTML blockquote tag). Listeners using iTunes or an iPod can speed up or slow down the playback to suit their listening preferences. Also, Odiogo provides download statistics, so you can discover how many people are listening to your blog this way.
Scientists and engineers once believed we'd be having regular conversations with our computers by now. It's proven to be a bit more difficult than they expected. There are, however, some impressive speech recognition and voice-operated features in today's cars and mobile phones. There are even some intriguing voice translation apps for iPhones and Android devices. Though text-to-speech (TTS) has been around for quite a while, the quality of synthesized human voices has gotten noticeably better in recent years. Web 2.0 continues to deliver in this area too. Check out Voki and YakiToMe as examples.