Make Your ESP32 Talk Like It’s The 80s Again

80s-era electronic speech certainly has a certain retro appeal to it, but it can sometimes be a useful data output method since it can be implemented on very little hardware. [luc] demonstrates this with a talking thermometer project that requires no display and no special hardware to communicate temperatures to a user.

Back in the day, there were chips like the Votrax SC-01A that could play phonemes (distinct sounds that make up a language) on demand. These would be mixed and matched to create identifiable words, in that distinctly synthesized Speak & Spell manner that is so charming-slash-uncanny.

Software-only speech synthesis isn’t new, but it’s better now than it was in Atari’s day.

Nowadays, even hobbyist microcontrollers have more than enough processing power and memory to do a similar job entirely in software, which is exactly what [luc]’s talking thermometer project does. All this is done with the Talkie library, originally written for the Arduino and updated for the ESP32 and other microcontrollers. With it, one only needs headphones or a simple audio amplifier and speaker to output canned voice data from a project.

[luc] uses it to demonstrate how to communicate to a user in a hands-free manner without needing a display, and we also saw this output method in an electric unicycle which had a talking speedometer (judged to better allow the user to keep their eyes on the road, as well as minimizing the parts count.)

Would you like to listen to an authentic, somewhat-understandable 80s-era text-to-speech synthesizer? You’re in luck, because we can show you an authentic vintage MicroVox unit in action. Give it a listen, and compare it to a demo of the Talkie library in the video below.

Continue reading “Make Your ESP32 Talk Like It’s The 80s Again”

Make An Arduino Talk To You


One of the highlights from the Music Hack Day in Berlin was the Arduino singing “Daisy Bell”. If you don’t know, this is an homage to the HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey; an artificial intelligence that was taught the song in its first steps toward self awareness culminating in an attempt to kill its masters.

It’s unlikely an Arduino will every make it to the point of attempted homicide but with the available code you can find out. Sample code and an explanation of human synthesis is now available through the Cantarino project. The project facilitates the use of phonemes from the SAM Apple II synthesizer to build wave forms that make up recognizable speech on the Arduino platform. The code illustrates how to select and link together speech sounds from the library. Check out the video after the break and then get to work on your own speech synthesis. We’re waiting for someone to put together the theme song from the 1980’s Transformers cartoon. Good luck! Continue reading “Make An Arduino Talk To You”