Despite the heroic efforts of Lefteris Zafiris to keep GoogleTTS afloat for use with Asterisk®, Google has made it increasingly clear that they intend to blow everyone’s apps out of the water (except theirs) if you choose to use their text to speech engine, even in open source, non-commercial products. As much as we’ve loved the voice quality and Google’s previous generosity in sharing their work product with the open source community, there comes a time when the mud wrestling simply is no longer worth the effort. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Steven Mirabito, we all now have a choice. Steven took the work of Lefteris on GoogleTTS and retrofitted it to support the free SVOX Pico TTS engine. While Pico lacks a bit of the voice quality of GoogleTTS, it’s a quantum leap improvement over Festival and FLITE and perfectly suitable for Incredible PBX TTS apps.



Unlike FLITE which has no voice alternatives to Lurch, Pico for Android has a rich assortment of 40+ male/female voices supporting 25+ languages. Many of them are free. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time until someone documents how to move them over to the Linux platforms. For today, our default install includes support for US English, British English, French, Spanish, and German. After the install, you’ll find them in /usr/share/pico/lang. Changing voices and languages in your Asterisk scripts is simple. Replace the default language identifier, en-US, with the voice of your choice, e.g. en-GB for British accents, fr-FR for French, es-ES for Spanish, and de-DE for German. If you wish to generate wave files at the command prompt, the syntax is shown below. Here’s the command we used to generate the sample sound file above.

pico2wave --wave sample.wav -l en-US "Here is a sample, using the PICO text to speech engine."

We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Before you can use Pico TTS, we first need to get it installed. There are two different procedures depending upon whether Incredible PBX is running on the CentOS/Scientific Linux platform or Debian/Ubuntu/Raspbian. The installation procedure below will install all of the necessary components for Pico TTS on an existing Incredible PBX platform. It also will modify the Incredible PBX apps that currently rely upon GoogleTTS. And, as of yesterday, all new Incredible PBX 13 installs include Pico TTS by default.

To get started, log into your server as root and choose the installation steps documented below for your particular platform.1

Installing Pico TTS on the CentOS/Scientific Linux Platforms

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts.tar.gz
cd /root
./picotts-install.sh
sed -i 's|en)|en-US)|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
sed -i 's|googletts|picotts|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Installing Pico TTS on the Debian/Ubuntu Platforms

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts.tar.gz
cd /root
rm -f picotts-install.sh
apt-get update
apt-get install -y libttspico-utils
sed -i 's|en)|en-US)|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
sed -i 's|googletts|picotts|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Installing Pico TTS on the Raspberry Pi Raspbian Platform

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts-raspi.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts-raspi.tar.gz
rm -f picotts-raspi.tar.gz
cd /root
echo "Installing Pico TTS..."
./picotts-install.sh

Post-Install Testing of Pico TTS with Incredible PBX

The easiest way to make sure everything is working properly is to pick up a phone on your server and dial 951 for the latest Yahoo News headlines. Keep in mind that Google Speech Recognition (Google STT) still works for apps such as Voice Dialing (411), Voice Messaging (767), Wolfram Alpha (4747), and Star (8). However, these apps require a free API key before use. The procedure to obtain and install one is documented in this Nerd Vittles article.

Changing the Pico TTS Voice with Incredible PBX

All of the Incredible PBX application scripts are saved in extensions_custom.conf in the /etc/asterisk directory. To change the default voice for Pico TTS apps, simply search and replace en-US with the desired voice: en-GB, fr-FR, es-ES, or de-DE. Save your changes. And then reload your Asterisk dialplan: asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Originally published: Monday, January 11, 2016





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  1. If you’re using an older version of CentOS, see the install tips documented on the PIAF Forum. []
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This article has 1 comment

  1. Does this replace the currently installed Flite? Or can you still use it in some scripts? Will Flite be dropped in the near future?

    [WM: Not to worry. FLITE is here to stay. 🙂 ]