Get started with speech on Azure

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Microsoft Azure offers both speech recognition and speech synthesis capabilities through the Speech cognitive service, which includes the following application programming interfaces (APIs):

  • The Speech-to-Text API
  • The Text-to-Speech API

Azure resources for the Speech service

To use the Speech service in an application, you must create an appropriate resource in your Azure subscription. You can choose to create either of the following types of resource:

  • A Speech resource - choose this resource type if you only plan to use the Speech service, or if you want to manage access and billing for the resource separately from other services.
  • A Cognitive Services resource - choose this resource type if you plan to use the Speech service in combination with other cognitive services, and you want to manage access and billing for these services together.

The speech-to-text API

You can use the speech-to-text API to perform real-time or batch transcription of audio into a text format. The audio source for transcription can be a real-time audio stream from a microphone or an audio file.

The model that is used by the speech-to-text API, is based on the Universal Language Model that was trained by Microsoft. The data for the model is Microsoft-owned and deployed to Microsoft Azure. The model is optimized for two scenarios, conversational and dictation. You can also create and train your own custom models including acoustics, language, and pronunciation if the pre-built models from Microsoft do not provide what you need.

Real-time transcription

Real-time speech-to-text allows you to transcribe text in audio streams. You can use real-time transcription for presentations, demos, or any other scenario where a person is speaking.

In order for real-time transcription to work, your application will need to be listening for incoming audio from a microphone, or other audio input source such as an audio file. Your application code streams the audio to the service, which returns the transcribed text.

Batch transcription

Not all speech-to-text scenarios are real time. You may have audio recordings stored on a file share, a remote server, or even on Azure storage. You can point to audio files with a shared access signature (SAS) URI and asynchronously receive transcription results.

Batch transcription should be run in an asynchronous manner because the batch jobs are scheduled on a best-effort basis. Normally a job will start executing within minutes of the request but there is no estimate for when a job changes into the running state.

The text-to-speech API

The text-to-speech API enables you to convert text input to audible speech, which can either be played directly through a computer speaker or written to an audio file.

Speech synthesis voices

When you use the text-to-speech API, you can specify the voice to be used to vocalize the text. This capability offers you the flexibility to personalize your speech synthesis solution and give it a specific character.

The service includes multiple pre-defined voices with support for multiple languages and regional pronunciation, including standard voices as well as neural voices that leverage neural networks to overcome common limitations in speech synthesis with regard to intonation, resulting in a more natural sounding voice. You can also develop custom voices and use them with the text-to-speech API

Supported Languages

Both the speech-to-text and text-to-speech APIs support a variety of languages. Use the links below to find details about the supported languages: