The proliferation of the Internet and Telecom has brought a new dimension to information access. This has enabled what is today known as ubiquitous computing. Laptops, palmtops and cellphones are enabled with Internet access, enabling immediate access to any information across the globe, anywhere and at anytime.
With cellphone penetration in India crossing 800 million, most Indians especially those in rural areas can hope to access the Internet through their cellphones. However, many of these cellphones have very small displays which are not suitable for reading web pages. Text-to-speech synthesis (TTS) systems, where speech is generated by a computer from given text, can go a long way to solve this problem. Such systems can also be extremely useful for the “visually challenged” to get into the mainstream of the information society.
In India with many languages, it is very important to develop TTS systems for different languages. A consortium of 12 institutes from across the country, led by Prof. Hema Murthy of IIT Madras, has embarked on a 3-year Rs. 12.66 crore project funded by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) to develop a TTS system for most of the major Indian languages. Using a common software framework, each partner will focus on one language. The consortium consists of IIT Madras, CDAC Mumbai, CDAC Tiruvananthapuram, CDAC Kolkata, IIIT Hyderabad, IISC Bangalore, IIT Guwahati, SSNCE Chennai, University of Guwahati, DA-IICT Gujarat, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Mandi.
The IIT Mandi team led by Dr. Anil K. Sao, Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, is taking up Rajasthani. With funding of Rs. 77 lakhs, Dr. Sao expects to have a prototype system for Rajasthani ready within one and half year and full-fledged TTS for Rajasthani complete and deployed for various applications by the end of the project. The team will involve research scholars, project associates and B.Tech. students.