Wikipedia announced on Thursday that it is collaborating with researchers from Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology to develop an open, crowdsourced speech engine that will make the online encyclopedia more accessible to people with reading or visual impairments. Wikipedia estimates that 25 percent of its user base approximately 125 million people monthly will benefit from the new service. And while the engine will be optimized for use on Wikipedia itself, any site running MediaWiki software will be able to integrate it as well.
"Initially, our focus will be on the Swedish language, where we will make use of our own language resources," KTH speech technology professor Joakim Gustafson, said in a statement. "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." Wikipedia plans to have English, Swedish and Arabic ready by the end of the year before moving on to the other 280 languages its site supports.