RealTime IT News

Newspapers to Get Audio Conversion

The busy wife rushing out of the house on the way to work might ask her husband: "Anything interesting in the paper dear?"

A British startup wants to give more consumers more chances to hear about what's in the paper.

Otodio bills itself as the "universal, eyes-free document delivery standard." Just as companies like Audible.com enable radio listeners to hear audio versions of best sellers and any number of other books in their car, Otodio plans to offer a variety of daily newspapers and magazines in audio format to satellite radio subscribers and others.

The initial target market of car-bound commuters totals tens of millions in the U.S. By one estimate, an average American spends 9% of their "awake time" in a vehicle.

"Look at all the hours people spend reading newspapers riding public transportation," Otodio CEO Peter Bond, told Internetnews. "You can't do that in a car."

At least not safely.

Bond says Otodio, which has U.S. offices in Herndon, VA, has been giving PC-based demos, but will soon release reference code for embedding Otodio in various devices. However, this is still very much a work in progress. The angel-funded startup doesn't expect to offer a commercial version to consumers until the latter part of next year.

At this point the company is looking for distribution partners. According to Bond, there have been talks with satellite radio provider XM Radio but no deals have been signed.

Otodio holds patents on its device-independent service, which uses industry standard text-to-speech technology. Bond says Otodio can transmit the text of a typical edition of the New York Times in a few seconds to a satellite radio receiver, MP3 player, or even a cell phone.

The "eyes-free" aspect of the service would include a speech recognition component so drivers won't have to fiddle with knobs or dials to find what they want to hear. Simple voice commands such as "next headline" would jump the narrator to the next story. There are also third party steering wheel buttons that could be programmed to do similar navigation.

Consumers might also have a choice of narrators for the service. "We see voice becoming a big aftermarket like ring tones," said Bond. Cell phone ring tones are over a billion dollar market world wide.

Corporate documents, such as training manuals, can also be sent to Otodio-enabled devices as can documents with location specific information like tour guides. Otodio also has the potential to be of benefit to the visually impaired.