Amazon acquire text-to-speech specialists IVONA: Audiobook boost or Siri rival planned?

Tech Digest news

amazon-kindle-fire-tablet.jpgAmazon have acquired IVONA, the text-to-speech firm behind the text-to-speech conversion capabilities of the Kindle Fire tablet line, for an undisclosed sum.

“We are all thrilled that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can continue to innovate and deliver exceptional voice and language support for our customers,” said Lukasz Osowski, CEO and co-founder of IVONA.

With no product roadmap revealed alongside the news, we can only guess at what Amazon plan to do with their new acquisition. Currently, IVONA offer voice and language services in 17 languages as 44 different voices, offering “Text-to-Speech,” “Voice Guide,” and “Explore by Touch” options to Kindle Fire users.

Could Amazon have their sights on Apple’s Siri? The company also bought Yap back in November 2011, a speech recognition start up. When paired with IVONA, the company would have a robust portfolio of both voice-input and voice-output technologies, which could be put to use in their tablet range in a way that could rival Apple’s voice activated assistant.

There’s also the possibility that IVONA could improve Kindle devices’ eBook-to-speech playback, a great feature for those with eye sight problems when no audiobook alternative is offered. However, with the popular Audible audiobook store also Amazon owned, it’s unlikely that Amazon would wan’t to jeopardise further audiobook sales with a feature that could improve upon the robotic offering currently available to some Kindle owners. Indeed, Amazon seem keen to move away from audiobook support in their eReading devices, with the Kindle Paperwhite removing both speakers and headphone jacks for audio playback.

Gerald Lynch
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