Using native iOS13 TTS voices, headphones, and bluetooth game controller for shadowing

wmqpmw's Avatar


03 Mar, 2020 11:16 PM

I’ve been working on the best way to review ANKI audio cards hands-free, and with the recent ability to use iOS13 native voices and bluetooth game controllers, I’ve stumbled upon a setup that works pretty well. I thought I would provide some quick details in case it’s of use to others.

I have a few collections of Spanish-English vocabulary and sentence pairs that I study (all from the shared decks), and I’ve been working to optimize this for hands-free use while exercising (I like to do about 30-45 minutes of cardio each day, and I find I concentrate on ANKI better during that time).

My cards all have the form FRONT: [English_word, English_Sentence]; BACK: [Spanish_word, Spanish_Sentence]. I used to use javascript workarounds (fortunately provided by other ANKI users) for audio, but changed everything to the new TTS markup for native iOS, which works great. I use 4 different voices, all at different speeds – one for the english word, one for the english sentence, one for the spanish word, and one for the spanish sentence (the slowest enunciation is for the spanish word, which can sometimes be garbled if not set to about .75 speed, something that should be less necessary as TTS tech improves). With the new iOS voices, I really don’t miss those offered through other add-ons and services, and I especially don’t miss the large file sizes and occasional costs. Some of my decks also have minor spelling issues, which affects the audio, and I am quite happy that I can just edit the spelling and obtain new audio without having to regenerate it.

I also recently purchased a mini bluetooth game controller (in my case, an 8BitDo Zero2). This particular controller fits really well into my hand, and is just acceptably small enough to make keeping it on a keychain not too bulky, allowing me to start reviewing cards on the go as well (this is not a plug for this particular controller, but the mini controller world seems like a zoo). I’ve set up the bluetooth controller to allow all the commands one would generally need for such a deck (undo, show answer, answer good, answer hard, answer easy, repeat audio, mark, suspend). I will say that pairing the controller with the phone can be a bit of a hassle, not because it’s an inherently difficult process, but because there are so many potential ways to do it incorrectly, and you occasionally have to figure out remapping of buttons (in my case, X,Y,A, and B were different from what I expected). But once you’ve figured things out, it’s a consistently easy thing to fire up.

Anyway, I just thought I would mention this just in case people were hesitant to implement the new iOS TTS, and for those who are into shadowing techniques. For me, combining this with the bluetooth controller has really been a personal game-changer.

I will mention that in order for this to work while moving around with your phone on you (presumably in a pocket or sleeve), you need to make sure that your phone screen isn't being touched. For me, this just means facing the screen away from my body while the phone is zipped up in a pocket (I have a protector with fairly fat bumpers that also "tents" fabric away from the screen as well, although I'm not sure if this adds value). I haven't tried this with a sleeve. If ANKI were able to function with the lock screen on, that would remove this consideration, but I don't know if this is really a situation that many people would find themselves in, and I don't know what adding that functionality would entail. I have also tried rubber-banding a cardboard face (nonconductive) over the phone to avoid screen touching, which works fine as well.

EDIT -------- for anyone who is considering this method and using the same 8BitDo controller, note that if you are left-handed, you would want to flip the controller and use the D-pad controls instead of ABXY. HOWEVER, the D-pad does not seem to register with iOS/ANKI. I don't know if this is because the controller actually works with iOS as a DUALSHOCK 4 Wireless controller or not (I have connected via bluetooth where "8BitDo..." shows up as the actual name of the connected device, but in these instances, none of the controls work).

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Damien Elmes on 04 Mar, 2020 10:18 AM

    Damien Elmes's Avatar

    Thanks for taking the time to share! Regarding the accidental taps, perhaps you could make use of guided access:

  2. 2 Posted by wmqpmw on 04 Mar, 2020 12:16 PM

    wmqpmw's Avatar

    Ah thanks for the prompt and insightful comment - guided access is the perfect solution. Just used it; couldn't be easier.

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