Idobata 2: talking Second Life and Skype

Idobata 2: offering text-to-speech conversion for SL (and Skype chat) users
Idobata 2: offering text-to-speech conversion for SL (and Skype chat) users

Update, March 3rd: Yuzuru has produced demo video for Idobata 2, and I’ve included it at the end of this article.

Update, January 28th: as noted below, Idobata 2 is now available from the Kanae Projects website.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been asked by Yuzuru Jewell to evaluate some of his software tools – a task I’m always delighted to perform as time allows, although in truth, I’ve fallen a little behind of late. This being the case, when Yuzuru first notified me that he was working on a new version of Idobata, his a text-to-speech conversion tool, I made a point to be ready to clear time to look at it when he was ready to allow me access.

Idobata was first launched in September 2013, when I originally reviewed it. As noted above, it is a text-to-speech conversion tool which currently works with the official Second Life viewer and both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Firestorm (and as a result can be used with SL and OpenSim).

When running, the original version – Idobata Pro –  would capture text typed into chat in the viewer in real-time, or view the chat look, and convert it into the spoken word. The new version, Idobata 2, still does that, but in addition it can also monitor all IM and group chat sessions, etc., and convert them to the spoken word. Further, Yuzuru has also added a capability for it to be used with Skype chats.

Idobata 2 is due to be launched on Tuesday, January 27th, so the following is intended to preview the new version, which will be available on the Kanae Projects website from approximately 13:00 SLT onwards on the 27th.

Unlike its predecessor, Idobata 2 will be provided free-of-charge, but will include banner adverts for other products in the Kanae Project range. Those who prefer not to have ads in their software can remove the banners by obtaining a user name and password from Yuzuru for a nominal donation of L$300 towards his running costs.

In order to use Idobata 2, you will need to download the ZIP file (when available) from Kanae Porjects (the application is provided in both 32- and 64-bit options), and you’ll also need to have the Microsoft Speech Platform 11 runtime, installed on your PC as well. If required, you can also download alternative / additional language and voice options for reading back text by downloading and installing the Microsoft Speech Platform Language Options.

Once you’ve download the runtime platform and installed it, unzip Idobata to a folder of your choice and double-click on the program icon to launch it. Those who have used Idobata Pro will immediately notice the first difference between it and the new product: Idobata 2 has a much smaller, tidier UI.

Idobata's main window showing the primary buttons and the default banner adverts for Yuzuru's other products
Idobata’s main window showing the primary buttons and the default banner adverts for Yuzuru’s other products

The main options for the application are displayed across the top of the window, together with an option to enter the users name and password to block the banner ads display at the bottom of the window. Between the options and banner area is a white space which will display the text currently being read back in voice – something that helps in situation where the spoken words many not be entirely clear (such as when abbreviations are being used, or technical terms, which may cause pronunciation problems for the application, etc.).

Idobata 2 Configuration

Before using Idobata 2 with Second Life, some basic configuration is required through the Tools button. Clicking this will open the 3-tab configuration window. The Chat Text tab is used to set the application for use with Second Life.

The Idobata 2 configuration options for Second Life
The Idobata 2 configuration options for Second Life

To have chat text converted directly to speech, all you need to do is:

  • Select your choice of viewer (the SL viewer and both the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Firestorm are supported)
  • Select the name of the avatar account through which Idobata 2 is to monitor / convert text
  • Check the Watch All Chats option if you want Idobata 2 to monitor all open IMs and group chat sessions involving the nominated avatar account in addition to open chat
  • Slide the Watch button towards to the top right of the window to the right (the background to the slider will turn burn, indicating Idobata 2 is ready to go

And that’s it. Idobata 2 is ready to convert chat (and IM / group chat, if set) text into the spoken word. If you prefer, rather than monitoring open chat, you can set Idobata 2 to monitor a specific chat log file (and define the encoding using by the file, if required), allowing Idobata 2 to be used with viewers other than the SL or Firestorm viewers. In addition, a set of three radio buttons allow you to:

  • Precede and converted text with a timestamp
  • Use the Second Life log Format drop-downs to define:
    • Whether Idobata 2 converts all text (None), or, if you are using a translation function
    • Whether Idobata 2 converts the original text to chat or the translated text to chat
    • Whether the other avatars with whom you are conversing are defined by Idobata 2 by their Display Name or their Avatar Name
  • Use the Custom(RegEx) option to define regular expressions which will not be read back by Idobata 2.

Once you have set your preferences, click OK to return to the main window, If you wish to reset Idobata 2 to its defaults at any time, click the Default button in the configuration window – note this will reset all options – both Skype (if set) as well as those for Second Life.

Continue reading “Idobata 2: talking Second Life and Skype”

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Idobata: talking Second Life

During my time blogging, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to review various tools developed by Yuzuru Jewell for use with Second Life, notably Rokuro and Tatara, both produced under his Kanae Projects brand, and aimed at supporting content creation.

Yuzuru recently informed me he was working on a new tool, which represents something of a departure from his other apps – a text-to-speech conversion tool which allows chat entered into  Second Life (in open chat) to be converted to speech and listened to via headphones / speakers. The tools is now almost ready for release, and Yuzuru kindly allowed me to have preview access to a beta version of the application and take it for a test drive.

The app, Idobata Pro, will be available for both Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit as a ZIP download, containing  a Readme file and the program executable. No installation is required; simply drop the EXE file in the folder from which you want to use it & create a shortcut as required. However, it does require Microsoft Speech Platform 11 is installed on the PC.

Idobata: text chat-to-speech
Idobata: text chat-to-speech

Once “installed”, simply double-click on the EXE / shortcut to launch Idobata.

Options and Set-up

The application runs in a single window, no tabs or anything to fiddle with, and set-up is a simple matter of using the presented options.

Buttons

  • START/STOP – starts / stops the text-to-speech conversion. Note that settings cannot be altered when conversion is active
  • Interval – set the delay between text chat and voice conversion
  • DEFAULTS – reset Idobata to its defaults.

Speech

Comprises three options:

  • Voice: allows you to select a voice option the application will use for speaking the chat it obtains. The default for this is Microsoft Anna US English
  • Volume: volume of the voice playback
  • Rate: the speed at which chat is spoken. Positive numbers mean faster playback, negative numbers means a slower playback.

Chat File

Select whether you wish to have chat converted directly from the viewer (requires you select the viewer and avatar) or from the chat file (requires you provide the chat file location). Currently, only Firestorm and Second Life are recognised by Idobata, so if you’re using another viewer, try using the convert from chat text file option.

Chat Mask

Allows you to define a chat mask:

  • Secondlife chat – the app will only read back an avatar’s Display Name (if set within SL)
  • [YYYY/MM/DD hh:mm] – the application will not precede chat with timestamps
  • Custom(RegEx) –  allows you to set regular expressions which will not be read back by Idobata
  • Speak translated chat – if you use translator within SL, Idobata will only read back the translated text, not the original language text.

Using Idobata

Click the START button to use the application. You’ll get a brief thank you message, which you can use to adjust the rate of playback, if required (click STOP to adjust the settings).

That’s it!

In Use and Feedback

Idobata works well, although the voice can take a little getting used to – adjust the Rate option in settings if you have problems understand what is being said.

The app potentially has a lot of uses, particularly if you’re engaged in something and don’t keep track of button flashes in CHUI or things like console messages , chiclets, etc., or indeed, if you’re off doing other things. For example, I spend a fair amount of time logged-in to SL but working on other windows, and so have the viewer minimised a lot. Idobata has already proven worthwhile for me as it allows me to hear who comes on-line, so I can flick back to the viewer if someone I need to IM comes in-world without my having to constantly flick back and forth with the viewer.

There are a couple of minor irritants – neither of which are Yuzuru’s fault per se. One is that Idobata has no way of determining the origins of what is being entered into chat – it simply converts everything in  the channel. This means that in places where there are a lot of spammy objects, it can get a little annoying (I was at a region where a greeter bellows out every single new arrival and how far away from it they arrive; that got particularly old very quickly, both with the announcement appearing in chat and Idobata reading it back). The other is the US Microsoft Anna voice – but that’s purely personal!

Idobata will be available from Monday September 9th via Yuzuru’s Kanae Projects website. The app can be used in a trail version for three days on a “try before your buy” basis, and licences for the full product will be available for L$1250 through Yuzuru’s in-world store.

Related Links

Tatara: a furnace for creating sculpts and mesh

In real life a tatara, or 鑪, is a traditional Japanese furnace for smelting iron and steel. In Second Life, Tatara, xreated ny Yuzuru Jewell under his Kanae Projects brand name, is a suite of tools which can be used to create sculpt maps and mesh collada files ready for upload to SL, and which includes both texture and bitmap editing capabilities as well.

Tatara combines a number of tools in order to manage this. The tools can be used individually or collectively, depending on the complexity of the object being created, and have a range of menu-driven options to further enhance their capabilities. The tools themselves are:

  • Tsuchi – allows an object to be displayed in orthographic projection from three directions, allowing to be edited and refined
  • Rokuro (lathe) – which I looked at in November 2012, which can be used to create basic shapes and forms for export as sculpt maps / meshes
  • Tokoroten (“extruder”) – which allows shapes or parts of shapes to be stretched, twisted, etc.
  • Mage – which can create more organic shapes and pipes and tubes, etc.
  • Wappa – which can be used for detailed editing of a section of a shape created using Mage
  • A bitmap editor and a texture / drawing tool.

Once a desired shape has been created, it can be saved / exported from Tatara as a sculpt map (.TGA format) or as a mesh .DAE file, each of which can be uploaded to Second Life, and file formats such as .OBJ and .XML are also supported. There are a number of sample shapes provided within the suite to help people get started, and files produced via other means can also be opened in Tatara and previewed / edited. When loading files produced elsewhere, Tatara automatically disables any tools which cannot be used in editing the loaded shape (so you may find, for example, that loading a sculpt map will disable the Rokuro and Tokoroten tools).

Using the Mage option in Tatara to create a teapot using an uploaded image as a guide
Using the Mage option in Tatara to create a teapot using an uploaded image as a guide

Tatara can be downloaded free-of-charge in a trial mode which will remain functional for three days. This allows access to all the features in the suite, other than saving / exporting creations. For this, a licence option must be purchased via Yuzuru’s in-world store. In addition, Tatara includes four optional plug-ins:

  • Cam and gear plug-ins for the creation of either cams or gears, which must be downloaded separately
  • Polyhedron plug-in which allows you to choose ten or more kinds of polyhedrons
  • Stair plug-in which allows the creation of four different types of stair, each with a user-definable number of steps.

Each of the four plug-ins also requires the purchase of a user licence to fully unlock them.

Installation

Tatara is available in three versions: Windows 32 and 64-bit versions and a Mac OSX version. There is no installer per se – the necessary files are provided in a ZIP file, which simply requires downloading and then unpacking to the desired folder.

Once unpacked and launched, Tatara will start-up and display a prompt for your user name and password. If no licence has been purchased, clicking cancel will allow access to the application in the trail mode.

A mesh shape: left - created using Tatara (Tsuchi); bottom - the saved DAE file being uploaded to SL; right - the finished shape with texturing applied (images courtesy of Yuzuru Jewell)
A mesh shape: left – created using Tatara (Tsuchi); bottom – the saved DAE file being uploaded to SL; right – the finished shape with texturing applied (images courtesy of Yuzuru Jewell)

Use

The UI itself comprises two parts: on the left, a preview pane which displays a representation of your model, which can be drag-rotated in all three axes to examine the design; on the right a series of tabs accessing the various tool options, together with a set of menus and options – some of which may be tool-dependent.

Getting to grips with Tatara is a little complex, but Yuzuru provides a solid user guide on the Tatara page of his website and a range of tutorials on his blog. Even so, it is fair to say the tools do require a good understanding of modelling and projection, and achieving a desired goal can take time if you’re not used to using creation / editing tools of this type. Nevertheless, the results can be very worthwhile, and for those wishing to add to their armoury of content-creation tools, whether looking to make sculpts or basic mesh, Tatara and Yuzuru’s other tools are well worth a look.

Designing a a ceiling light frame using Tsuchi and, inset, trhe finished, textured piece about to be installed (click to enlarge)
Designing a ceiling light frame with the aid of Tsuchi and, inset, the finished, textured piece about to be installed (click to enlarge)

The full range of tools provided by Yuzuru comprise:

  • Rokuro – reviewed in this blog in November 2012
  • Rokuro_Pro – a version of Rokuro which includes a texturing capability and a series of plug-in tools
  • Tokoroten (“extruder”) – creates extruded forms of sculpted prim
  • Tatara – an advanced sculpted prim editor which includes functionality from Rokuro and Tokroten and well as three additional modes, which can be used individually or collectively to create sculpt maps
  • Shibori (“iris” – as in camera eye) – a “shrinkwrapper” for shrinking a sculpt around a given shape
  • Nomi (“chisel”) – creates a sculpted prim or mesh with a relief surface from one picture using the picture’s brightness
  • Hanko (“seal”) – a tool which allows you to add your signature to a sculpt map.

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Rokuro 4.2.0: symmetrical sculpted and mesh shapes with ease

Rokuro is one of a number of programs created by Second Life user Yuzuru Jewell under the Kanae Projects name. It can be used to create sculpt maps outside of SL, which can be saved as .TGA files and then imported for use in-world to generate sculpted shapes

In the new release, version 4.2.0, Yuzuru has added the ability for Rokuru to additionally save generated maps as Collada file, allowing them to be uploaded into Second Life as mesh items (XML, OBJ (triangles and quadrangles) are also supported).

Rokuro – meaning lathe – offers a simple and effective way of creating symmetrical shapes for use in Second Life, and the website provides a host of samples and templates with which to get started with the tool and which can be easily modified to suit your needs.

Rokuru - create symmetrical designs as sculpts or meshes
Rokuru – create symmetrical designs as sculpts or meshes

The UI itself comprises two parts – on the left, a “finished product” preview pane which displays a representation of your model, which can be drag-rotated in all three axes to examine the design, and an editing panel on the right, in which is displayed as a plan view of your shape, the right side of which can be edited (the left will automatically reflect all adjustments made). A range of menu-supplied options (including access to default shapes) and a range of settings provide a good degree of flexibility within the tool.

A shape created in less than a minute on Rokuru and uploaded to SL
A shape created in less than a minute on Rokuro and uploaded to SL

Rokuro is offered free of charge (although donations towards its ongoing development and the development of Yuzuru’s other products are always welcome), and is available in Window 32- and 64-bit versions, and is also available for the Mac. For those wanting to explore the capabilities of the tool in more depth, there are a range of tutorials available both in-world and on the Marketplace.

As mentioned above, Rokuro is one of a range of products made by Yuzuru to assist content creators, the entire range currently comprising:

  • Rokuro
  • Rokuro_Pro – a version of Rokuro which includes a texturing capability and a series of plug-in tools
  • Tokoroten (“extruder”) – creates extruded forms of sculpted prim
  • Tatara – an advanced sculpted prim editor which includes functionality from Rokuro and Tokroten and well as three additional modes, which can be used individually or collectively to create sculpt maps
  • Shibori (“iris” – as in camera eye) – a “shrinkwrapper” for shrinking a sculpt around a given shape
  • Nomi (“chisel”) – creates a sculpted prim or mesh with a relief surface from one picture using the picture’s brightness
  • Hanko (“seal”) – a tool which allows you to add your signature to a sculpt map

Note that some of these tools require the purchase of a serial number from Yuzuru’s in-world store, but time-limited versions are available for download through the Kanae Projects website in order to “try before buying”.

Related Links

With thanks to Yuzuru Jewell.