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Brushing up on computer talk.

Listening to a computer speak can be a real headache. A recent study shows that synthetic speech -- words made up of sound fragments generated by a computer -- requires more attention and takes a greater effort to understand than natural speech. Follow-up experiments probing the reason for this effect reveal that synthetic speech lacks some of the subtle sound cues that normally help listeners to extract meaning from spoken sentences. Previously, some researchers had argued that synthetic speech was much like degraded natural speech, in which the cues are distorted rather than missing.

"We're concerned about how you can improve the intelligibility and naturalness of speech synthesized by a computer," says psychologist David B. Pisoni of Indiana University in Bloomington, who with two colleagues conducted the experiments. "There are no standards for sppech synthesis," he says. "Our work is very basic rsearch into how humans perceive natural speech versus synthetic speech, what the nature of the differences are, and how these differences may be ampliflied or attenuated depending on the environment in which the speech is presented to the observer."

So far, even the best commercially available speech synthesizers fail to live up to human performance, says Pisoni. Choosing the right synthesizer for a given application is very important. "If you're using one of them in the cockpit of an aircraft or a helicopter, with a lot of noise," h says, "you sure don't want speech produced by a hobbyist toy."
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Title Annotation:speech synthesized by a computer
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 16, 1985
Words:240
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