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Wikipedia developing a speech engine for visually impaired users: Report

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Known as the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia has collaborated with researchers from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology and is working on a crowd-sourced speech engine in order to make Wikipedia, more accessible to the visually impaired users. The platform will be optimised for Wikipedia and will available as an open source and usable by any website that uses MediaWiKi, an open-source wiki package respectively.

According to Phys, Joakim Gustafson, a professor of speech technology at KTH, says that the project aims to provide access to Wikipedia and other wikis to people with reading difficulties or visual impairment. “Initially, our focus will be on the Swedish language, where we will make use of our own language resources,” Gustafson added. “Then we will do a basic English voice, which we expect to be quite good, given the large amount of open source linguistic resources. And finally, we will do a rudimentary Arabic voice that will be more a proof of concept.”

Researchers will begin developing the engine in Swedish, English, and Arabic, which they aim to complete by September 2017, before expanding it to the other 280 languages in which Wikipedia is currently available. The report added that all material produced will be freely licensed and can be used for free by anyone, in line with the rules of Wikimedia Commons.

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