Wikipedia has announced the introduction of a speech synthesis platform that will make the website accessible to the visually impaired. Through a partnership with KTH Royal Institution of Technology in Sweden, Wikipedia will optimize the site while maintaining it as an open source and free for use on sites running the MediaWik software. Through this move, Wikipedia expects that approximately 25%, users, who are roughly 125 million people on a monthly basis, will benefit.
Just like Wikipedia was created through crowdsourcing, researchers at KTH will also depend on user’s to contribute to the platform’s development. Wikicommons Sweden will build a client-server architecture that will enable functionality to get buttons. Users will have the chance of reporting a badly reading sentence, or even to make the corrections themselves. Users initiating the changes will need some linguistic knowledge as they will have to use a phonetic transcription to correct the dictionary. Joakim Gustasfo, who is a KTH speech technology professor, notes that researchers would like users to record how a word is supposed to be pronounced and having this automatically correct transcription in future.
The Swedish language will be the first to feature in the project. Gustasfo notes that they will make use of their language resources during the translation. They will then introduce a basic English voice which they expect to be quite good since there are significant amounts of open source linguistic resources including dictionaries among others. They will finally make a rudimentary Arabic sound that will be more proof of concept before September 2017. By doing Arabic since there are no diverse resources, they will have to develop them though only in small amounts. Later on, they will move to the other 280 languages that the site supports. According to Gustasfo, they project does not have funds for creating resource but only for integrating. Swedish Post and Telecom Authority are funding the platform that is approximated to use 2.8M Swedish Krona ($335,000).
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