TTSF (Text To Shipping Forecast)

The BBC Shipping Forecast is one of those strange bits of national tradition which, somehow, bridges the gap between infrastructure and folklore.

You can listen listen to the latest forecast on the BBC - read by professional newscasters.

But what if we wanted a robot to read it? If our speaker is sick, bored, or too expensive - how would we automate the audio version of the Shipping Forecast?

The BBC publishes the general forecast - but it's important to note that this is not what is read out on air. Instead, they use this compressed version published by the Met Office.

The Met's version doesn't have an API - or any other way to get structured information out of it - but the HTML is relatively basic and easy to extract the data from.

Once done, it can be passed to a TTS (Text To Speech) service like Amazon Polly.

Here are the (quick and dirty) results:




I've previously experimented with Synthetic Poetry. Robots aren't great at reading out verse - they lack emphasis and emotion. But something like the Shipping Forecast is perfect for them. It requires a calm, even tone. No particular need for words or phrases to be stressed. Each syllable needs to be clearly and well enunciated. When dealing with life-and-death matters, there's no room for error.

Text to speech is - for some very specific use-cases - indistinguishable from organic speech. Although, amusingly, Amazon's system was unable to correctly pronounce "Utsire" - so a little manual intervention was needed on that!

3 thoughts on “TTSF (Text To Shipping Forecast)

  1. Maybe - some folks use The Shipping Forecast to help them get to sleep. There's something specific about the calm meaningless (to most people) intonation that the robots haven't quite got yet...

  2. The Met Office's compressed version, which you used, is "Crown Copright". One has to wonder why it is not under the Open Goverment Licence.

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