TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Speech and REALbasic

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Programming Techniques

Speech and REALbasic

by Erick Tejkowski

Add powerful speech and recognition abilities to your REALbasic application

Introduction

Ever since the first Macintosh arrived, speech has been an interesting addition to the Mac OS. Computerized speech has been a mainstay on the Mac since day one. It has evolved over the years into its current state, changing names a couple times along the way. The ability of having your computer speak to you is invaluable, leading to the development of a variety of applications. You can now have your email, caller ID, or web pages read to you thanks to Apple's speech capabilities. A little later, the Mac OS began shipping with English speech recognition software. Instantly you could control parts of the Macintosh through AppleScripts in the Speakable Items folder. There is also a SDK available from Apple that shows how to implement speech recognition in your own applications. Although it has been possible for a number of years now, it has not always been particularly easy to implement. The SDK required extensive knowledge of C++ object programming. Luckily, some thoughful programmers have put together a whole collection of tools to control and use speech and speech recognition in your own applications.

What this means for REALbasic programmers is that you now have convenient access to all of the aforementioned speech abilities. With little effort, you can quickly have your computer barking out phrases. Furthermore, you can implement speech recognition in your own applications. REALbasic offers several manners in which to implement each of these functions. This article will attempt to cover all of the various ways to add speech and speech recognition abilities to REALbasic applications. Advantages and disadvantages will also be discussed for each of the methods.

Text to Speech

Getting your REALbasic application to speak can be accomplished in a number of ways. Deciding on which method is most appropriate or convenient for your purposes can most easily be accomplished by examination of each method. As we discuss each of the methods, we will build a sample application in REALbasic.

AppleScript

AppleScript is a fast and simple way to add speech abilities to your REALbasic application. REALbasic is capable of directly calling AppleScripts and AppleScript is able to control the Text-to-Speech abilities of the Mac OS. To demonstrate, begin by opening REALbasic and starting a new project. To Window1 add an EditField and a PushButton. Change the Caption Property of the PushButton to "AppleScript" and put the following code in the Action event:

Sub Action()
		dim i as string
		i=SaySomeString(Editfield1.text)
	End Sub

The command SaySomeString is the name of the AppleScript we will use to speak a string of text; the text contained in the EditField, to be exact. Next, start the AppleScript Script Editor application and write a simple script as follows:

	on run {x}
	tell application "Finder"
		say x
	end tell
	end run

The variable x is the string we will pass to the script from REALbasic. The On Run statement allows AppleScript to accept a value from outside AppleScript. Save the script as a "Compiled Script" and name it "SaySomeString". Next, drag the compiled script into your REALbasic project. By now, your REALbasic project should look like Figure 1.


Figure 1. Speech via AppleScript.

Select Run from the Debug menu to test the project so far. Type some text in the EditField and press the PushButton. Your Mac should speak the text. Now, wasn't that simple? One disadvantage of this method is that the computer has to rely on AppleScript to perform the speech command. Since AppleScript is acting as the intermediate between your application and the operating system, performance can sometimes be a tad slow (particularly on older machines). Moreover, AppleScript must be installed for this to work properly.

To avoid the dependence on AppleScript, several other methods can be used to accomplish speech. They include shared libraries, native system calls, and REALbasic plugins. To demonstrate each of these methods, we will add three more PushButtons to the Window1 of our project. Set the Caption property of each PushButton to read "SharedLib", "SystemCall", and "Plugin" respectively.

Shared Libraries

Shared Libraries are collections of pieces of code that exist in your System Folder (typically, but not always, in the Extensions Folder) and are simultaneously available to multiple applications. The speech functions are accessible through commands to the SpeechLib Shared Library. To add the SpeechLib to your project, drag the Speech Manager Extension from the Extensions Folder into the REALbasic project window. Once the SpeechLib has been added to the project, REALbasic must be told what functions to utilize from the library. This is accomplished through "Entry Points". To add an entry point, double-click the SpeechLib in the project window. A window will appear that allows you to add entry points. Click the Add button and enter the following information:

Listing 1. NewSpeechChannel Entry Point for SpeechLib

	Name: NewSpeechChannel
	Parameters: Ptr, Ptr
	Return Type: Integer

Be certain to enter this information exactly as printed, since case matters here. This information tells REALbasic to add a command NewSpeechChannel which accepts two pointers as parameters and returns an integer.

Similarly, add entry points with the information in Listing 2.

Listing 2. The remaining Entry Points for SpeechLib

	Name: DisposeSpeechChannel
	Parameters: Ptr
	Return Type: Integer

	Name: SpeechBusy
	Parameters: 
	Return Type: Integer

	Name: SpeakText
	Parameters: Ptr, Ptr, Integer
	Return Type: Integer

	Name: GetIndVoice
	Parameters: Integer, Ptr
	Return Type: Ptr

Next, create the following properties in Window1 by selecting the Edit...New Property menu.

	ChannelPtr(0) as MemoryBlock
	text(0) as MemoryBlock
	Voice(0) as MemoryBlock

Finally, add code to the Window1 Open event and to the PushButton2 Action event as shown in Listing 3.

Listing 3.

	Window1.Open: 
	Sub Open() 
	ChannelPtr(0) = newmemoryBlock(4) 
	text(0) = newmemoryBlock(255) 
	End Sub 

	Window1.PushButton2.Action: 
	text(0).Cstring(0) = Editfield1.text

	OSerr SpeechLib.GetIndVoice(7,Voice(0))
	OSerr SpeechLib.NewSpeechChannel(Voice(0), ChannelPtr(0)) 

OSErr SpeechLib.SpeakText(ChannelPtr(0).Ptr(0),text(0),
len(text(0).Cstring(0))) // This is all one line!

	while (SpeechLib.SpeechBusy() <> 0) 
	wend 
	OSerr SpeechLib.DisposeSpeechChannel(ChannelPtr(0).Ptr(0)) 
	End Sub 

Select the Debug...Run menu to test it. Type in some text into EditField1 and press the "SharedLib" button. You should hear your text spoken back to you in Kathy's voice. This occurs with no reliance on AppleScript.

To learn more about Shared Libraries, please check the references at the end of this article. In particular, look at Christian Brunel's site. He has a detailed explanation of working with Shared Libraries in REALbasic. In fact, the code presented here is a scaled-down version of his. He goes into much more detail, so don't miss it!

System Toolbox Calls

If all of the shared library preparation seemed a bit daunting, never fear. REALbasic has added the ability to make system level Toolbox calls. To call system APIs from REALbasic, you must use the Declare statement. While not necessarily a topic for pure beginners, a freeware application entitled TBFinder (listed in the References at the end of this article) by Fabian Lidman helps tremendously. Furthermore, Matt Neuberg's book also discusses the topic in greater depth. For speech purposes, our sample application will make use of one Declare statement. Add a third PushButton to Window1 and change the caption property to read "System Call". Double click PushButton3 and enter the code in Listing 4 into the Action event of the PushButton.

Listing 4

	dim s as string
	dim i as integer

Declare Function SpeakString lib "SpeechLib" 
(SpeakString as pstring) as Integer //This is all one line!
	s=editField1.text
	i=SpeakString(s)

This example comes to you directly from the REALbasic Developer Guide. It shows how you can eliminate all of the messy steps involved with the previous shared library call in one statement. The Declare function can call any number of system level calls. A good way to discover them is to read Inside Macintosh and the Mac OS Universal Headers included with CodeWarrior. Again, be sure to look at TBFinder. It takes away much of the guesswork of Declare statements. Since Declare statements deal directly with the system level APIs, the parameters and return types are often C data types that might be unfamiliar (if not downright scary!) to the REALbasic programmer. Some of this ugliness was the reason folks flocked to REALbasic in the first place, which leads to the next topic.

REALbasic Plugins

The final manner in which we can get REALbasic to speak text is by using a native plugin. REALbasic supports its own native plugin format. Simply drop a plugin into the Plugins folder located within the same folder as the REALbasic application. Restart the REALbasic application and it will now have the added functionality that the plugin provides. You will need to check the documentation for the plugin to learn about its methods and controls it adds. For our example, we will use the VSE Utilities Plugin. It has recently been made freeware and you can download it from the site listed in the Reference section of this article. Add the plugin to your Plugins folder and restart REALbasic, remembering to first save your project before restarting. Once restarted, load the project again, and drag a fourth PushButton onto Window1. Change the Caption property to "Plugin". Double-click PushButton4 and add the code in Listing 5 to the action event of the PushButton.

Listing 5

	dim i as integer
	i=Speak(Edifield1.text)

The plugin adds a Speak method to REALbasic. All of the work is done behind the scenes. The advantage here should be obvious - simplified code. The drawback is that you are at the mercy of the plugin programmer to properly write the code, to update it regularly, and to code it efficiently. Still, when a plugin is available for a particular function that you need, your work will be drastically reduced by using it. Furthermore, it conforms to the REALbasic programming methodology, which does not require extensive knowledge of the sometimes-complicated Mac Toolbox. Figure 2 shows the completed demo project.


Figure 2. The completed Speech.pi project.

As you can see, REALbasic offers a number of ways to make your Mac speak text. The idea here is not only to show you that speech is possible in four different manners, but that these four methods can be used in other instances of your applications. It is up to you to seek out the vast number of abilities that these methods afford you. When REALbasic does not support a function natively, the programmer may be able to accomplish the task using AppleScript, shared libraries, direct system calls, or plugins.

Speech Recognition

Speech recognition abilities can be added to your Mac by installing Apple's Speech Recognition package. REALbasic currently offers two different ways to add Apple's speech recognition abilities to your application: Speakable Items and a REALbasic plugin. Both rely on Apple's Speech Recognition technology, but vary in how they respond to spoken commands.

AppleScript

When Apple Speech Recognition is installed, a folder entitled Speakable Items is placed in your Apple Menu Items folder. Within this folder are AppleScripts and aliases to files you wish to open. The idea is that when Speakable Items is turned on through the Speech Control Panel, the Mac will listen for the phrases found in the Speakable Items folder. If we were to place our own AppleScript in this folder that would control a REALbasic application we have written, then we could control the Mac with speech. An excellent tutorial about making an AppleScript-able REALbasic application can be found at the RB Monthly site. Follow the tutorial keeping in mind that you want to send speech commands to your own application. Finally, create AppleScripts that control your application and drop them into the Speakable Items folder. You will also want to check the REALbasic documentation for information about how REALbasic applications respond to AppleEvents.

Apple Event Plugin

The second method to implement speech recognition in your own application is a bit more complex, but luckily Matthijs van Duin has made the job much easier. His sample project details the use of speech recognition and offers classes and modules for use in your own projects. In addition, the result is a self-contained speech recognition example without relying on the higher level AppleScript. Instead, his example relies on an AppleEvent plugin for REALbasic called AE Gizmo by Alex Klepoff . The AE Gizmo plugin allows a REALbasic programmer to use AppleEvent strings in Lasso CaptureAE format within REALbasic. So, be sure to also download the Lasso CaptureAE plugin. To say it another way, you need the AE Gizmo plugin and the project from Matthijs van Duin to do self-contained speech recognition with REALbasic. If you would like to do other types of AppleEvents commands using LassoAE results (as the speech recognition example does), then you also need to download LassoAE. This article will not go into detail about the use of AE Gizmo. That is up to you to explore. A version of AE Gizmo also accompanies Matthijs van Duin's example. It is mandatory that you use one of the newest Alpha release versions of REALbasic for the speech recognition example, as it makes use of some new features in REALbasic. You can download the developer releases of REALbasic from the REALbasic download page.

Conclusion

Adding speech and speech recognition capabilities to your applications used to be the stuff of dreams. REALbasic, along with the help of several third party add-ons, gives you the ability to add speech and speech recognition capabilities to your own software. As Apple continues to improve each of these technologies, you will likely be able to reap the benefits with little or no additional code. You can be certain that speech will be a big topic in the future of computers and with your Mac and a copy of REALbasic you can take advantage of speech and speech recognition today. Now get out there and write some speech software!

References


Erick Tejkowski is a Web Developer for the Zipatoni Company in St. Louis, Missouri. He's been programming Apple computers since the Apple II+ and is still waiting for a new version of Beagle Brothers to be released. You can reach him at ejt@norcom2000.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

A Better Finder Rename 10.00b1 - File, p...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
CrossOver 14.1.6 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Printopia 2.1.14 - Share Mac printers wi...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Google Drive 1.24 - File backup and shar...
Google Drive is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or... Read more
Chromium 45.0.2454.85 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 45.0.2454.85: Note: Does not contain the "... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2.5 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
iFFmpeg 5.7.1 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a graphical front-end for FFmpeg, a command-line tool used to convert multimedia files between formats. The command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does... Read more
VOX 2.6 - Music player that supports man...
VOX is a beautiful music player that supports many filetypes. The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all... Read more
Box Sync 4.0.6567 - Online synchronizati...
Box Sync gives you a hard-drive in the Cloud for online storage. Note: You must first sign up to use Box. What if the files you need are on your laptop -- but you're on the road with your iPhone? No... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.4 - Easy-to-use b...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more

You Can Play Madfinger Games' Unkil...
Madfinger Games - probably best known for the Dead Trigger series - has officially launched their newest zombie shooter (that isn't called Dead Trigger), named Unkilled. [Read more] | Read more »
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone (Music)
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: ** 50% OFF Special Launch Sale - For a Limited Time **The ELECTRIBE reborn in an even smaller form A full-fledged... | Read more »
I am Bread (Games)
I am Bread 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ‘I am Bread’ is the latest quirky adventure from the creators of 'Surgeon Simulator', Bossa Studios. This isn't the best thing... | Read more »
Rock(s) Rider - HD Edition (Games)
Rock(s) Rider - HD Edition 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: *** PLEASE NOTE: Compatible with iPhone 4s, iPad 2, iPad mini, iPod touch (5th generation) or newer *** Do you... | Read more »
Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville (Games)
Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It's been a few years since the zombpocalypse turned the world's cities into graveyards and sent the few... | Read more »
Power Ping Pong (Games)
Power Ping Pong 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Do you wield your bat with zen-like focus or do your balls of fury give you a killer spin? Table tennis goes mobile with a... | Read more »
Z.O.N.A Project X (Games)
Z.O.N.A Project X 1.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.00 (iTunes) Description: Z.O.N.A Project X - shooter in the post-apocalyptic world. | Read more »
Trick Shot (Games)
Trick Shot 1.0.6 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.6 (iTunes) Description: A game where all you have to do is throw a ball into a box, simple? Trick Shot is a minimalist physics puzzler with 90 levels... | Read more »
VoxelCity (Games)
VoxelCity 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: Looking for a new city builder? Tired of social media anti-games with no strategy? Look no further! NO IAP EVER! VoxelCity is a... | Read more »
Goat Simulator MMO Simulator (Games)
Goat Simulator MMO Simulator 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** Coffee Stain Studios brings next-gen... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Near-Office Input Functionality Virtually Any...
Today Logitech introduced the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse, giving users the freedom to work on any device, most anywhere. According to... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 4, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
Will You Buy An iPad Pro? – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
It looks like we may not have to wait much longer to see what finally materializes as a new, larger-panel iPad (Pro/Plus?) Usually reliable Apple product prognosticator KGI Securities analyst Ming-... Read more
eFileCabinet Announces SMB Document Managemen...
Electronic document management (EDM) eFileCabinet, Inc., a hosted solutions provider for small to medium businesses, has announced that its SecureDrawer and eFileCabinet Online services will be... Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils American-Made, All...
San Francisco’s WaterField Designs today unveiled their all-leather Cozmo 2.0 — an elegant attach laptop bag with carefully-designed features to suit any business environment. The Cozmo 2.0 is... Read more
Apple’s 2015 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
128GB MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP,...
B&H Photo has 11″ & 13″ MacBook Airs with 128GB SSDs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $799.99, $100 off MSRP... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679, save $...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Apple and Cisco Partner to Deliver Fast-Lane...
Apple and Cisco have announced a partnership to create a “fast lane” for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps. The alliance integrates iPhone with Cisco enterprise... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Repair Techn...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
Simply Mac- *Apple* Specialist- Store Manag...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer for Apple products and solutions. We're looking for dedicated individuals with a passion to simplify and enhance the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.