New Voices for NOAA Weather Radio
One of the most important goals of the National Weather Service is to effectively disseminate products and services that enhance public safety and economic productivity of the nation. An objective which supports this goal is improving accessibility and timeliness of weather information to communities. Improving the voice used on NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) will help us meet this objective.
The current weather radio system has been in use at weather offices since January 1997. While the old computer voice gained acceptance by much of the public, complaints were still received about its intelligibility and quality. The voice was the highest quality voicing system when the new NWR system was developed in the mid-1990's. Since then commercial text-to-speech technology has continued and has resulted in an improvement in the quality of voices which are created. As a result, the National Weather Service initiated efforts to improve the quality of the automated text-to-speech voice.
An exciting new feature of the new voice technology is that we now have two different voices, instead of just one. This helps to break up the monotony of the broadcast and make the presentation more pleasant to listen to. There is a male voice (Craig), and a female voice (Donna). Weather offices are strongly encouraged to use both voices, with the male voice for some products and the female voice for others. Which products get which voice will be largely dependent on what our customers want (that's you!). For instance, mariners have repeatedly stated a preference for Donna's voice, because it is more easily heard over engine noise. Others have asserted that the male voice is best for severe weather warnings and watches. If you have any thoughts on which voice should be used for which type of information (e.g., severe weather, marine information, the hourly round-up, the forecast, etcetera), please let us know! Also, please alert us if you hear the voices mispronouncing words...especially place names.
Even with the new voices, you may still occasionally hear the old voice. Weather offices are encouraged to break in the new voices gradually, using them only for one or two products at first, and then for more and more products over time. Also, if the NWR receives a product that the new voices cannot process, then NWR will revert back to the old voice to read the product.