ElevenLabs launches iOS app that turns ‘any’ text into audio narration with AI

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If you’ve ever started reading an article on your iPhone only to have to drive somewhere, walk, bike, do chores, or otherwise take your eyes off the screen — ElevenLabs has an app for you.

The AI audio creation company founded by former Palantir engineers today launched its first iOS app, “ElevenLabs Reader: AI Audio.”

Unlike the full ElevenLabs website which contains a variety of different AI models and features including text-to-speech, converting speech into other voices and languages, AI dubbing, and AI sound effects, the new ElevenLabs iOS app is more narrowly tailored and focused specifically on converting text files or links from the web into audio narration that the user can listen to while on the go, or doing something else with their eyes and hands, e.g. barbecuing, making dinner, putting away the dishes, etc.

Initially, this text-to-speech functionality will only be available in English on the app, though a pop over screen suggests that the full 29+ languages ElevenLabs supports on the web will also be making their way to its iOS Reader app soon.

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The app is available for free download through the Apple App Store and requires iOS 15 or newer versions of the software.

It requires you to sign in with an existing ElevenLabs account or create a new one with your email and password or using your Google or Apple account to log in.

Once you do log in, you’re presented with a list of pre-loaded text files with accompanying audio narration, most of which appear to be fairy tales and folklore stories already in the public domain such as Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Victorian mystery series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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Tapping any of these stories pulls up the text and immediately begins the voiceover AI narration, with a green interactive highlighter following along and highlighting each word spoken by the AI narrator.

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Of course, most of us busy adults have other things we need to read besides fairy tales, so there’s also a plus button in the upper right hand corner of the app’s main menu that the user can click on and pull up a menu to “Add content” of their own, including writing their own text, importing a URL that they’ve copied and pasted from their mobile web browser, or a file from the iOS files app.

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The app also integrates with the iOS default Share Sheet, so the user can add a widget in the share sheet of their iOS Safari browser and share links from the browser view to the ElevenLabs iOS Reader app while they’re browsing, without having to copy and paste.

Tapping the 1.0x default speed indicator in the lower right hand corner of the app allows the user to increase or decrease the speed between 0.8x and 2x. However, you can’t select these speeds from a dropdown or scroll menu — instead you just have to tap to cycle through each one, one at a time, which could be a little annoying for some users.

Tapping the soundwave icon in the left icon allows the user to choose from 11 (natch) different voices and accents, from male to female, American to Austrian to British English.

Uploading a PDF file with visuals and graphics from my iOS Files app to the ElevenLabs iOS Reader app took a few seconds in my testing, and the app stripped out all the visuals, displaying only text. It also had some issues with formatting that made the narration slightly award — pausing at inopportune moments to the line breaks.

I also encountered a couple random error messages and failures to convert text to audio in my brief testing.

However, the app is brand new and will no doubt be improved rapidly. And the actual functionality of AI voiceover narration was surprisingly fluid overall and incredibly accurate and compelling. It even worked on VentureBeat articles and a full novel manuscript of 300+ pages.

One big question is whether ElevenLabs captures all/any of the text data and files a user submits to the app, stores them somewhere (and if so, whether that is encrypted and private storage), and/or trains on the files a user pastes or uploads. We’ve reached out to the company for an answer and will update when we hear back.

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