Podcasts are growing in popularity, and I’m intrigued by the potential of this format. With 100’s of great stories on our site, I thought there is plenty of excellent content in which to choose from to create a great Michigan Podcast. Each Saturday, we select one of Thumbwind.com’s amazing short stories from the Great Lakes region and the Tip of Michigan’s Thumb. So sit back, relax and enjoy this week’s tale from the End of the Road in Michigan.
Soon, I hope to post both text and audio podcasts with new content at the same time. For the historical podcasts, I chose the podcast provider, Spreaker to be the home page for the End of the Road in Michigan stories and utilize its distribution capability to Apple Podcast and Google Podcasts. This will allow Thumbwind to be even more accessible and offer a new medium in which to offer more great stories and updates. I hope you will find this an interesting effort and I invite you to become a podcast subscriber.
Using Artificial Intelligence and Neural Voice Technology
As an IT guy for a major company, I get exposure to some of very interesting, cutting edge technology. For example, several years ago I developed and brought to life a Chatbot on Facebook Messenger. It’s a neat application and its used every day from Thumbwind’s Facebook Page. That experience was useful for my day job in leading projects for chatbot development at a commercial level. However, I thought it fell short when trying to extend content choices out to more people on Thumbwind.
Creating Podcasts for Great Stories
I wanted to create Podcasts without having to buy equipment and set up a studio. Recording the story is only the beginning. Then there is editing. Clipping and merging tracks and ensuring all the mic levels jive with the bumper music. What a pain.
I started looking at the text to speech software. After reviewing the options I opted to utilize a technology based on Amazon Polly. Launched in 2016, Polly is a cloud service that converts text into lifelike speech. While not completely perfect, I found that Amazon’s advances with Neural voice inflection offer a pleasing, conversational tone that is perfect for storytelling. Within a short period of time, I created three podcasts from some of the older stories on this site.
This gave me the chance to update the content and experiment with the lexicon of the text-to-speech service. For example, Polly cannot properly say the word, “Saginaw”, so phonetic adjustments had to be made. The French-based words Au Gres, Pointe Aux Barques, and Charlevoix, were also troublesome. As was the tempo and pacing of the reading. It was a fun learning experience.
The End of the Road in Michigan News
A weekly update of News and Events in Michigan’s Upper Thumb. Plus special podcast of issues and in-depth coverage of Michigan issues.
A Fortnight in the Wilderness
In 1831, 26-year-old Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont, took the ultimate road trip. The pair of French aristocrats journey from Buffalo New York to the Straights of Detroit with the intent of going to the last overland outpost of civilization; Saginaw. Predating Michigan’s statehood, the lumber industry, and homestead settlement, the story weaves a tale of what early Northwest territory life was like in the early 1800s. We travel with them along with the famous Saginaw trail meeting unique individuals hacking their way into virgin forests and meeting its native inhabitants. It’s also a commentary of the environment and how supposedly civilized society will forever impact nature. This takes place 180 years before today’s concept of climate change. It’s a fascinating short story that is an excerpt from the book A Fortnight in the Wilderness and is now freely available for the first time anywhere as a podcast.
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