Posts with «speech synthesis» label

MicroVox Puts the 80’s Back into Your Computer’s Voice

[Monta Elkins] got it in his mind that he wanted to try out an old-style speech synthesizer with the SC-01 (or SC-01A) chip, one that uses phonemes to produce speech. After searching online he found a MicroVox text-to-speech synthesizer from the 1980s based around the chip, and after putting together a makeshift serial cable, he connected it up to an Arduino Uno and tried it out. It has that 8-bit artificial voice that many of us remember fondly and is fairly understandable.

The SC-01, and then the SC-01A, were made by Votrax International, Inc. In addition to the MicroVox, the SC-01 and SC-01A were used in the Heath Hero robot, the VS-100 synthesizer add-on for TRS-80s, various arcade games such as Qbert and Krull, and in a variety of other products. Its input determines which phonemes to play and where it shines is in producing good transitions between them to come up with decent speech, much better than you’d get if you just play the phonemes one after the other.

The MicroVox has a 25-pin RS-232 serial port as well as a parallel port and a speaker jack. In addition to the SC-01A, it has a 6502 under the hood. [Monta] was lucky to also receive the manual, and what a manual it is! In addition to a list of the supported phonemes and words, it also contains the schematics, parts list and details for the serial port which alone would make for fun reading. We really liked the taped-in note seen in this screenshot. It has a hand-written noted that says “Factory Corrected 10/18/82”.

Following along with [Monta] in the video below, he finds the serial port’s input buffer chip datasheet online and verifies the voltage levels. Next he opens up the case and uses dips switches to set baud rate, data bits, parity, stop bits and so on. After hooking up the speakers, putting together a makeshift cable for RX, TX and ground, and writing a little Arduino code, he sends it text and out comes the speech.

The SP-01 wasn’t the only speech chip from the 1980s we’ve come across. [Marquis de Geek] used the SP0256 to make what he calls a homemade Stephen Hawking. And Votrax themselves had their own speech box, the Type ‘N Talk which [Jan] used to give voice to old text adventure games with an Android phone and VIC-20. The sound from this one really is remarkable, sounding pretty much the same as modern-day Siri.

Filed under: classic hacks

Arduino Clock Is HAL 1000

In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000 — the neurotic computer — had a birthday in 1992 (for some reason, in the book it is 1997). In the late 1960s, that date sounded impossibly far away, but now it seems like a distant memory. The only thing is, we are only now starting to get computers with voice I/O that are practical and even they are a far cry from HAL.

[GeraldF6] built an Arduino-based clock. That’s nothing new but thanks to a MOVI board (ok, shield), this clock has voice input and output as you can see in the video below. Unlike most modern speech-enabled devices, the MOVI board (and, thus, the clock, does not use an external server in the cloud or any remote processing at all. On the other hand, the speech quality isn’t what you might expect from any of the modern smartphone assistants that talk. We estimate it might be about 1/9 the power of the HAL 9000.

You might wonder what you have to say to a clock. You’ll see in the video you can do things like set and query timers. Unlike HAL, the device works like a Star Trek computer. You address it as Arduino. Then it beeps and you can speak a command. There’s also a real-time clock module.

Setting up the MOVI is simple:

 recognizer.init(); // Initialize MOVI (waits for it to boot)
 recognizer.callSign("Arduino"); // Train callsign Arduino (may take 20 seconds)
 recognizer.addSentence(F("What time is it ?")); // Add sentence 1
 recognizer.addSentence(F("What is the time ?")); // Add sentence 2
 recognizer.addSentence(F("What is the date ?")); // Add sentence 3

Then a call to recognizer.poll will return a numeric code for anything it hears. Here is a snippet:

// Get result from MOVI, 0 denotes nothing happened, negative values denote events (see docs)

 signed int res = recognizer.poll(); 

// Tell current time
 if (res==1 | res==2) { // Sentence 1 & 2
 if ( now.hour() > 12) 
 recognizer.say("It's " + String(now.hour()-12) + " " + ( now.minute() < 10 ? "O" : "" ) +
     String(now.minute()) + "P M" ); // Speak the time

Fairly easy.

HAL being a NASA project (USSC, not NASA, and HAL was a product of a lab at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – ed.) probably cost millions, but the MOVI board is $70-$90. It also isn’t likely to go crazy and try to kill you, so that’s another bonus. Maybe we’ll build one in a different casing. We recently talked about neural networks improving speech recognition and synthesis. This is a long way from that.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, clock hacks

Speech Recognition and Synthesis with Arduino

In my previous post, I showed how to control a few LEDs using an Arduino board and BitVoicer Server. In this post, I am going to make things a little more complicated.

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Speech Recognition with Arduino and BitVoicer Server

In this post I am going to show how to use an Arduino board and BitVoicer Server to control a few LEDs with voice commands. I will be using the Arduino Micro in this post, but you can use any Arduino board you have at hand.

The following procedures will be executed to transform voice commands into LED activity:

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Making a Homemade Stephen Hawking

It isn’t easy communicating when you have any form of speech impairment. In such cases, a Speech-generating device (SGD) becomes essential to help you talk to the world. When coupled with other ailments that limit body movement, the problem becomes worse. How do you type on a keyboard when you can’t move your hands, and how do you talk when your voice box doesn’t work. Well known Scientist Stephen Hawking has been battling this since 1985. Back then, it took a lot of hardware to build a text entry interface and a text to speech device allowing him to communicate.

But [Marquis de Geek] did a quick hack using just a few parts to make a Voice Box that sounds like Stephen Hawking. Using an arcade push button to act as a single button keyboard, an Arduino, a 74HC595 shift register, a 2-line LCD, and the SP0256 hooked to an audio amplifier / speaker, he built the stand-alone speech synthesizer which sounds just like the voice box that  Stephen Hawking uses. Although Dr. Hawking’s speech hardware is quite complex, [Marquis de Geek]’s hack shows that it’s possible to have similar results using off the shelf parts for a low cost solution.

There aren’t a lot of those SP0256-AL2 chips around. We found just a couple of retailers with small stock levels, so if you want to make one of these voice boxes, better grab those chips while they last. The character entry is not quick, requiring several button presses to get to the character you want to select. But it makes things easier for someone who cannot move their hands or use all fingers. A lot of kids grew up using Speak and Spell, but the hardware inside that box wasn’t the easiest to hack into. For a demo of [Marquis de Geek]’s homemade Hawking voice box, check the video below.

Filed under: digital audio hacks