Can I use Microsoft Anna with Windows XP?September 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Software Industry, text to speech | 23 Comments
And Other Microsoft-Related Text to Speech Questions.
With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft have introduced two new voices, Microsoft Anna – a female English voice and Microsoft Lili – a female Chinese voice. With this movement at the station, I thought I’d contact Microsoft and ask them a few text to speech related questions. Charles Oppermann, Program Manager for speech components at Microsoft was kind enough to provide some answers.
Mark: I am very interested in learning some of the background about the development of Microsoft Anna. Was the text-to-speech (TTS) engine and voice developed in-house or did Microsoft license some third-party technology?
Charles: Microsoft Anna is based on the MSTTS20 engine, codenamed “Mulan”. It was developed entirely by Microsoft, specifically in our Advanced Technology Center in Beijing, China.
Mark: What are the major improvements in Anna over Sam?
Charles: The major improvement is readability and a better sounding voice.
Mark: Is Microsoft Anna only for use with Windows Vista or will she be made available for XP users?
Charles: Currently Anna is only available with Windows Vista. However, there are a few products that include Anna that run on Windows XP, the first one is Microsoft Streets and Trips. That is a North American mapping product, and I believe the European versions go by the name Microsoft Autoroute. We would like to make Anna available for Windows XP as an end-user download, but haven’t committed to that yet. Do you have an opinion whether we should or not?
Mark: I personally think you should make Microsoft Anna available as a download for XP. I would like to see TTS gain more acceptance in the community and having Microsoft provide better quality voices out of the box is a good way of achieving this.
I understand there is a Chinese voice that is based on the same technology. What version of Vista do I need to install this voice?
Charles: That is correct, in addition to Anna, we have Microsoft Lili for Chinese. If you have Windows Vista Ultimate or Enterprise Edition, you can download the Chinese Language Pack which will install TTS and speech recognition engines for Chinese. Chinese language versions of Windows Vista include Lili and Anna in the box.
Mark: What do you see as the most important areas for improvement in TTS technology on the Windows platform?
Charles: The most important area is language expansion, making our TTS engine speak in many languages. We have an aggressive program to do this and will make the engines available in future server-based products and then make them available on the Windows desktop.
Mark: I’ve seen a number of grumblings on the web by people who want a male voice for Vista. Do you have any plans to make Microsoft Sam available for Vista?
Charles: There is no way we can make Microsoft Sam available on Vista. A particular module in it did not meet our security standards and we decided to block it when upgrading to Windows Vista. The L&H engines that come as part of Microsoft Office XP and Office 2003 don’t have this issue.
I want to see a male voice as well, but our main focus is voices for server-based products, which use predominately female voices. However, this is something I’m working on.
Mark: Finally, are there any current blogs, forums, newsgroups, etc where Microsoft text-to-speech developers hang out?
Charles: My blog and Rob Chambers blog are active and we try to be responsive to information requests. Several folks on our team try to keep an eye on the various Microsoft speech related newsgroups and forums (MS-Speech at Yahoo Group being one or the more active ones), but we really can’t provide support services through them.
Mark: Thank you very much for your time Charles.
The MS-Speech Yahoo group is mainly filled with speech recognition posts, although there is the occasional text to speech related post.
The Microsoft Speech Components group have just created a new blog for all things Speech @ Microsoft.
If you must have Microsoft Anna for Windows XP now, you can purchase the very reasonably priced Microsoft Streets and Trips for US39.95 which includes Microsoft Anna.
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