Pocket app from Mozilla now reads websites to you in a human-sounding voice

The listen mode in Mozilla’s Pocket app will read websites to you in a human-sounding voice.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Mozilla has given its read-it-later Pocket app the ability to read text out loud with human-sounding voices so you can turn a website into an instant podcast.

The new feature, released Thursday, spotlights the growing competence of computers to change text into speech. Other high-profile examples include Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. But perhaps the closest to an actual human is the Google Assistant’s Duplex technology, arriving in November in Google’s new Pixel phones.

However, don’t expect a flawless rendering. Websites can be filled with extraneous text you might not want to hear, and the voices can stumble over things like unfamiliar words and acronyms.

But while the voice quality may not beat a professional reader of audio books from services like Amazon’s Audible.com, the realistic alternative in most situations is no voice at all. Mozilla argues that Pocket’s listen feature means you can in effect read websites during moments when you can’t be looking at a screen.

“Our new listen feature frees the content you’ve saved to fit into your busy life. It enables you to absorb articles whenever and wherever, whether you are driving, or walking, working out, cooking or on the train,” Mozilla said.

Pocket lets you save websites for later reading, even without a network connection, and tag them so you can organize them the way you might with browser bookmarks. The service also generates stories that Firefox feeds into its “recommended by Pocket” section that’s visible when you open a blank new tab.

‘Hello, humans’: Google’s Duplex could make Assistant the most lifelike AI yet.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition.

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