Drug-running giant squid

Young Americans

Little voice

These days, computers have gotten very good at doing text-to-speech — i.e. reading text on a screen out loud to you. That’s particularly useful for the blind or hard-of-sight, or for phone-information applications, where you’re parsing data via a telephone. The only problem is, the voices for these applications tend to be rather bland. A while ago I accidentally turned on Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech mode, and nearly shrieked out loud when the computer began reading out my document to me. It wasn’t so much that the computer was talking (though that’s pretty weird itself) but that the voice sounds like Stephen Hawking shot up with tranq darts. Isn’t there some way to get a more appealing automated voice?

Well, yes there is — with “Let Them Sing It For You”, a hilarious little web application created by Erik Bùnger. Go to that site and type in a sentence you want to hear read aloud, and the web site will reproduce it — with each word sung by a different pop star, the audio stripped out of an actual pop song. It is just compellingly berserk. I typed in “I have no pants” and simply could not stop laughing. The “I” is a clip from Chris Izaak’s song “Wicked Game”, and, well, things get even stranger from there on in. Bùnger suggests several innovative uses of his tool:

Send your friend a love declaration, Christmas wish or poem sung by Judy Garland, Lou Reed and Christina Aguilera. Authorities can replace their streamlined phone answering voices with an unruly mix of mythological and sexually inviting voices belonging to the pop world’s greatest icons.

If you discover that the database doesn’t yet include a specific word you’re looking for, go find a song that includes it, then notify Bùnger; he’ll strip it out of the song and input it into the database.

(Thanks to Joey for this one!)

blog comments powered by Disqus

Search This Site


I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

More of Me


Recent Comments

Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson