Service Creates Custom Voices For Those Who Can’t Speak

VocaliD uses your voice to give people a unique way to express themselves.

People with sever speech impediments often have to rely on an artificial voice that sounds an awful lot like a robot. VocaliD wants to give those people a better way to express themselves, which is why they have started a service that lets you donate your voice.

The first step is to select a surrogate of the same sex, similar age, and who has with a voice that sounds somewhat similar to the recipient. Just like a prosthetic limb, the voice has to fit the person, otherwise it wouldn’t be much use at all.

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Once selected, a donor then reads through several thousand sample sentences, sourced from classics such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and TheVelveteen Rabbit, to provide the raw material needed to construct a new voice. It takes at least 800 sentences to create a usable voice, and around 3000 for one that sounds relatively natural.

All of this raw material is then combined the recipient’s voice using a piece of software called ModelTalker. It breaks the sentences down into the smallest possible units of speech, which can then be used to construct entirely new sentences in the hands of someone with a speech impediment.

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The project has only created a few personalized voices so far, but the impact is clear, as proven by one anonymous user who said:

 

I was almost in tears when I first heard it and I can’t express what it means to know that, whatever happens to me, I will be able to communicate with my own voice.


Now VocaliD wants people from all over the world to donate their voices so that they can build up their “voice bank”. They also has plans for an iPhone app to make the donation process easier, as well as a gamified version that would make it more fun for children to donate their voices – all of which have the power to give someone a voice they never had.

VocaliD
Source: New Scientist
Images:
Edmund Yeo vis Flickr

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