Microsoft’s NewsCast App will Read the Morning Paper to You

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Microsoft is currently working on a new mobile app called NewsCast. The app works by turning your selected articles into a playlist, and then playing the article’s text.

The app uses Bing’s text-to-speech capabilities and it currently only plays 30 seconds’ worth of text. NewsCast also allows saving summaries for later.

For now, NewsCast is only available for iOS devices. If and when NewsCast is completed, Android and Windows Phone versions will also be offered.

Several other tech companies are also creating their own mobile article-reading apps. Yahoo offers a News Digest app, while Facebook is testing a Twitter-like news app.

What is NewsCast?

With the NewsCast app, you can listen to news summaries while reading different text, similar to listening to an audiobook or podcast while doing something else. Ideally, NewsCast will eventually offer you the ability to read an article’s entire text, which will greatly improve its features and usability.

Another useful feature is the ability to have text read to you while commuting. Drivers will appreciate being able to listen to their usual news articles during their morning or evening commute. Of course, public transit commuters can also use NewsCast. However, in a drivers’ case, not fumbling with a phone during slow or non-moving traffic will greatly increase traffic safety.

NewsCast might also be useful for people who are visually impaired, as it offers an alternative to other screen reading software, or merely increasing the size of screen text. Increasing the size of the text on the screen doesn’t work as well on a five-inch device versus on a laptop or desktop screen.

newscast app

The Drawbacks

While NewsCast is promising, there are a few possible drawbacks. NewsCast may be redundant given competing software options. Besides the apps Facebook and Yahoo are working on, there also exists screen reader software that can read screen text. Both major mobile operating systems have this software already built in — Apple’s iOS offers Voice Over, while Google’s Android features Google Text-to-Speech.

We’re also not sure if and how NewsCast will tie into Microsoft’s existing Cortana functionality. Engadget noted that NewsCast voices aren’t quite as strong as those with Microsoft’s own Cortana software.

Increase Your Productivity With NewsCast

Overall, the future of NewsCast may help increase the versatility of mobile devices, while offering specific functionality beyond what’s included in iOS or Android by default. While NewsCast’s article reading abilities won’t replace popular news anchors, it does promise to increase the productivity and functionality of your morning news.

 

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Kayla Matthews is the editor of Productivity Bytes and a regular contributor to VentureBeat, Motherboard, MakeUseOf and Inc.com. Follow her on Twitter to read her latest posts.