Swedish researchers, Wikipedia develop first crowdsourced speech engine

March 10, 2016
Swedish, English and Arabic will be the first languages launched on Wikipedia's synthesised speech platform. Credit: KTH Royal Institute of Technology

By 2017, English, Swedish and Arabic speakers will find that Wikipedia is talking their language—literally. The online free encyclopedia is collaborating with Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology to develop the world's first crowdsourced speech synthesis platform.

The platform will be optimised for Wikipedia but freely available as open source, and readily usable by any site that uses the MediaWiki software on which Wikimedia is based. 

Joakim Gustafson, a professor of speech technology at KTH, says that the project aims to provide access to Wikipedia and other wikis to people with reading difficulties or visual impairment.

"Initially, our focus will be on the Swedish language, where we will make use of our own language resources," Gustafson says. "Then we will do a basic English voice, which we expect to be quite good, given the large amount of linguistic resources. And finally, we will do a rudimentary Arabic voice that will be more a proof of concept."

An estimated 25 percent of all Wikipedia users—nearly 125 million people per month—need or prefer text in spoken form, according to PTS.

Like Wikipedia's content, the speech output will be crowdsourced, with users contributing to the continuous development of the synthesizer.

Once the English, Swedish and Arabic speech engines are produced, sometime around September 2017, it will be possible with the help of users to extend synthesized speech to the remaining 280 languages in which Wikipedia is available. 

All material produced will be freely licensed and can be used for free by anyone, in line with the rules of Wikimedia Commons.

The Wikispeech pilot project is a collaboration between KTH, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, Wikimedia Sweden and STTS services. PTS is financing the .  

Explore further: Wikipedia gets another source of cash for 15th birthday

Related Stories

Annual Wikipedia fundraising hits new high

January 3, 2012

An annual Wikipedia fundraising campaign ended Tuesday with donors around the world pumping a record $20 million into the foundation that runs the free online knowledge repository.

Wikipedia back online after brief service cut

August 6, 2012

Popular online knowledge trove Wikipedia was back online Monday after a fiber optic cable connection between its two US data centers was severed, causing an hour-long service outage.

Recommended for you

Volumetric 3-D printing builds on need for speed

December 11, 2017

While additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3-D printing, is enabling engineers and scientists to build parts in configurations and designs never before possible, the impact of the technology has been limited by ...

Tech titans ramp up tools to win over children

December 10, 2017

From smartphone messaging tailored for tikes to computers for classrooms, technology titans are weaving their way into childhoods to form lifelong bonds, raising hackles of advocacy groups.

Mapping out a biorobotic future  

December 8, 2017

You might not think a research area as detailed, technically advanced and futuristic as building robots with living materials would need help getting organized, but that's precisely what Vickie Webster-Wood and a team from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.