Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm
A new service from an Australian start-up transforms articles from the web into a radio-like experience. SoundGecko, from Melbourne's 121cast, automatically transcribes print articles from the web and outputs an audio mp3. Their free iPhone app even plays these transcribed articles back-to-back, essentially creating a personalized news audio stream.
"Our vision is to reinvent the radio with personalized information and entertainment," said 121cast's Long Zheng.
Give SoundGecko a URL -- by sending it to a special email address, pasting it directly into SoundGecko's website, or via Chrome extension -- and the service delivers an mp3 recording within 30 seconds to your email address, or to the service's iPhone app, or pushes the file to a linked Dropbox or Googe Drive account.
"Since our soft launch we've had hundreds of users requesting nearly a thousand articles," Zheng told The Verge.
"I have been testing the service over the past few days and although it isn't perfect," writes The Verge's Tom Warren, "I found that the text-to-speech voice is great for when you want to simply sit back and listen to an article during a commute."
Our own experience with the app is similar. Here's how I've used the service over the past day: while browing the web, I used the SoundGecko Chrome extension to send a variety of interesting articles -- which I didn't have time to read just then -- to the service. Then this morning on the train, I fired up SoundGecko's iPhone app and listened to my articles in one continuous radio-like stream.
It was overall a very smooth and exciting experience, though as Warren writes, it isn't perfect (yet). But 121cast has a few ideas on how to improve the experience, including possibly hiring professionals to "read out the most popular URLs" (on-air talent?).
Apps for Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are on the way. SoundGecko is currently free to use, though the company is mulling putting caps or perhaps premium features.
You can find SoundGecko here and The Verge's coverage here.