Voice Dream Reader, the text to speech champ, is out with a new version for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. A “Pac-Man mode” is said to help you double your reading speed “with no loss of comprehension.”
In addition, Version 4.0 serves up other new goodies ranging from a “finger reading” mode for beginning readers to syncing of folders, book mark and annotations across different iOS devices using iCloud Drive. Hats off to developer Winston Chen for 4.0!
I like to read when I walk through the halls of my apartment building or work out on my recumbent bicycle, not just watch Netflix on the bike, and I often rely on text to speech. Exercising, I use Moon+ Reader Pro, an Android-only app, as well as Voice Dream. Moon+ is better in terms of general feature sets. But for TTS for me, nothing beats Voice Dream. Take the navigational capabilities. Voice Dream can do its TTS act and read text to you from one part of a book, while you visually take in another section tens of thousands of words removed. Then, by simultaneously tapping two fingers against the screen, you can once again both see and hear the same text, with the spoken words showing up within a yellow background, the default.
Imagine the possibilities of Voice Dream Reader for blind people and for others with print impairments such as dyslexia, especially given its compliance with the Daisy navigation standards.
When, just when, will major DRM providers allow Voice Dream to read “protected” books aloud? It’s time for the American Library Association to talk tough with Adobe, Amazon and other vendors to let library patrons enjoy DRMed books with Voice Dream—not just people with disabilities but also exercisers. Typical Americans spend just a smidgen of their time reading books. Now along comes Voice Dream—with a choice of surprisingly natural-sounding voices, including my own favorite, “Peter,” the baritone from Acapela—to help us reclaim more hours for reading. Of course, the real solution technically would be the end of encryption-based DRM or the use of less intrusive Social DRM, but dream on if you think that can happen for typical library books, given the current business models in use.
On top of everything else, Voice Dream offers all text bolding in a variety of fonts ranging from Aerial (my favorite) to Georgia and Hoefler, as well as, yes, Dyslexie. Time for Amazon to care more about these details in both its hardware and its apps? So far Amazon has been absolutely callous toward me and other older people who need to increase the perceived contrast between text and background (although maybe this is about to change through the company’s discussions with the National Federation of the Blind).
You can download 4.0 from the Apple App Store—a list of old an news features is here. “Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.”Cost is $10 and well worth it. Supported languages include “English, Arabic, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian Bokmål, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish.”
The Pac-Man Mode as a reading speed booster
“Cute, but you need to paste a little Pac-Man figure on there munching words away to make the joke more clear,” a sharp friend said just now after I sent him the screen shot accompanying this paragraph.
But, no, Pac-Man mode is not an April Fool’s Day joke. “The latest research at MIT and Harvard shows that everyone can double their reading speed with no loss of comprehension,” Chen has written.
“The new technique combines audio, visual, and attention propulsion that’s counter-intuitive. The words disappear from the page before they’re spoken by text-to-speech, forcing the reader to read ahead visually with audio arriving a fraction of a second later. With some practice, the results can be staggering.”
So try the feature? Does it work for you?
“Your entire library, including folders, reading locations, bookmarks and annotations are synchronized across all your devices using iCloud Drive.” Hooray! Voice Dream has finally caught up with Moon+ Reader Pro—well, sort of. The catch is that for now, at least the syncing won’t work between the iOS and Android versions of Voice Dream Reader. The older Android version of Voice Dream is here.
The Finger Reading Mode
“Some readers, particularly emerging readers, struggle to follow even the slowest speed, which is also distorted. With finger reading, the reader traces the words on the screen with a finger to hear each word, much like how a parent reads for a child.”
A complete “What’s New” list for 4.0
As described by Voice Dream, here’s a complete list of “What New”:
A Beautiful New UI
• Grid view and cover images in the library.
• Improved library organization: filters, flags, and sort order.
• Visual appearance of the entire app uses the current color theme.
• Experimental rich text and image support for all documents.
• Your entire library, including folders, reading locations, bookmarks and annotations are synchronized across all your devices using iCloud Drive.
New Reading Modes
• Finger reading. For beginners to read by at running a finger under each word.
• Pac-Man. Harvard and MIT developed speed-reading method for everyone to read at 2x speed with no loss of comprehension.
• Sentence mode. Speech pauses at every sentence. Useful for beginning readers.
• Repeat mode.
• Option to rewind to beginning of the last sentence when you pause.
• Alex, free high quality voice in iOS 9.
• New premium child voices from Acapela in US, UK, and Australian English, US Spanish, and German.
• Acapela’s new flagship German voice: Claudia.
• Emotive variations of Jeroen, Antoine, Margaux, Dimitris and Will.
Other New Features
• Set PDF margins to exclude text in header and footer.
• Up to 4X speed for recorded audio.
• Support for 3D Touch, split-screen multitasking and Spotlight search.
• Safari extension to save Web pages and Web addresses.
• Evernote file attachments.
• Background download for files and voices.
• More accurate language detection.
• Option to hide header and footer in full-screen mode.