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31/05/2012 - John Hayes MP announces launch of JISC TechDis text to speech voices by CereProc

Leading UK advisory service JISC TechDis has today formally launched TechDis Voices, two synthetic voices - created in partnership with text to speech (TTS) company, CereProc - developed for use in the education system throughout England, at the Go On: National Digital Conference (NDC2012) in London.

Announced by John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, the development of the TechDis Voices, funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS), serves to make youthful and modern voices freely available throughout the further, higher, and continuing education sectors.

Working in collaboration, JISC TechDis and CereProc developed the text to speech voices - one male, Jack and one female, Jess - to encourage the use of text to speech TTS tools among, students, staff and life long learners throughout the education system in England.

At an event celebrating the campaign for digital inclusion, the launch marks a recognition of the increasing importance of text to speech (TTS) technology and voice software, supporting CereProc's broad research and development strategy to explore how individuals and organisations can benefit from the integration of text to speech (TTS) technology.

"We're delighted that the TechDis voices have had such fantastic reception at this year's Go On: NDC 2012. A truly multi faceted project in terms of application and user benefits, it's great to have the backing of John Hayes MP, and to be given such a fantastic stage to launch the TechDis voices among an audience with such an open and forward thinking attitude," explained Paul Welham, Chief Executive Officer at CereProc.

Primarily designed to support individuals who require assistive and alternative communication aids for speech output, and those visually impaired users dependent upon the TTS technology to access educational resources, the TechDis voices also serve as a tool to improve productivity when embedded into wider mainstream multichannel practices.

Blending CereProc's efficient patented voice creation technology with JISC TechDis' commitment to driving forward awareness of the value of providing freely available text to speech (TTS) voices, the collaboration has produced two high quality, youthful and modern voices that retain the character and sentiment of the voice artist.

Supported by JISC TechDis by being given access to thousands of potential users, CereProc carried out intensive research, selection and a period of beta testing among active users to ascertain the most effective and well received voices.

Explaining the significance of the TechDis Voices, Alistair McNaught, Senior Advisor with JISC TechDis added: "Text-to-speech has been very poorly used in the education sector. We believe that by having learner focussed voices, that learners themselves have helped to choose we can transform its mainstream acceptance and availability."

"We are hoping that Jess and Jack will help bring text-to-speech out of the shadows and into the light of mainstream education provision. There are so many benefits for so many different types of people," concluded Sal Cooke, Directory of JISC TechDis.

Free to access for education users, the voices are available for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and compatible with screen readers and many other widely used applications. During his plenary speech, John Hayes also launched the TechDis Toolbox alongside the TechDis Voices.

Visit the JISC TechDis Voices website for more information.

About JISC Techdis

JISC Techdis, a JISC Advance Service, is a leading UK advisory service on technology and inclusion. The Service supports the education sector in achieving greater accessibility by stimulating innovation and providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology.

Based at the Higher Education Academy in York, JISC Techdis promotes a culture of inclusive practice within educational institutions through engagement with senior managers and specialist staff. Through working with associates and in collaboration with a range of partners, the Service also supports other organisations and advisory services, encouraging the integration of accessibility strategies into policies and procedures.