Speaking a URL Demo

Amazon Polly is an amazing technology, but it sure rushes through reading URLs in text. Let’s see if you can listen to and write down the URL at the end of this sentence.

Did you catch all that? Here’s the sentence that Polly was supposed to be reading:

Our code for various exercises is provided on the following web site: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/∼jltobias/bem.html

from Bayesian Econometric Methods

We at Synthetic Audiobooks have learned how to harness Amazon Polly and get her (or him) to sound even more human and better communicate important information like a URL. Here’s the Synthetic Audiobooks version of the same sentence.

Improvements we made:

  • No need to rush speaking a URL! We slow her down so someone taking notes has a chance to write down the URL.
  • Ambiguous sections should be spelled out, not read. Polly pronounced “ics” just fine, but a listener would be left wondering “was that ‘ix’, or ‘iks’, or ‘ics’?” We make Polly spell it out “eye, see, ess”.
  • Spelling out a long stretch of letters can still be hard for human ears to capture, so we also have Polly make a quick pause after every three letters.
  • Note how our version spells some parts and reads others (like “web” and “purdue”)? That’s because we have an ever-growing lexicon of domains and words that Polly speaks just fine within a URL, so we let her. Our clients can provide their own custom list to supplement ours.
  • Polly completely ignores the tilde (~) in the middle of the URL. Forget typing the tilde when entering the URL (https://web.ics.purdue.edu/jltobias/bem.html) and you will get the dread “404 Not Found” page! We make sure Polly says “tilde”.