Humane: Do Some Good
How about starting off the new year by giving someone a voice? You may take yours for granted, but for those who have no voice or suffer from severe speech impediments, a voice is something missing from their identity.
Thankfully, voice technology has come a long way in the past few years. Instead of having to settle for a robotic-sounding imitation, you can get a real voice at VocaliD, a company that is gathering voices from donors who want to give voice to the voiceless. How does it work? Here’s an excerpt from their website:
If you're familiar with Stephen Hawking’s iconic voice, you may be shocked to learn that many people around the world — young and old, male and female — speak with the exact same voice. There are tens of millions worldwide who rely on computerized voices to express themselves. Yet, many of them speak identically. Add to that hundreds of millions who use text-to-speech technology everyday for things like smartphone assistants, GPS navigation, and screen readers — and the possibilities for what a unique VocaliD™ voice can offer become limitless.
How do you create custom synthetic voices?
The creation of a custom vocal persona is a two-part process which involves the recording and blending of voices. We leverage the power of social collaboration to gather recordings from speech donors who are passionate about giving the gift of voice. Using our cutting-edge voice blending technology, we craft a vocal identity that is both authentic and understandable.
Just what is this “cutting-edge technology” that blends the voices?
This work began as a means to provide unique voices for those who rely on computerized devices because they are unable to speak. Our patent pending technology builds on speech science theory to combine the recipient's voice characteristics with a database of speech recordings from a matched donor. The result is a hybrid voice that preserves the clarity of the donor’s recordings but conveys as much of the recipient’s vocal identity as possible.
The Human Voicebank is a crowdsourced initiative to gather the world’s largest collection of standardized speech recordings from English speakers of all ages and backgrounds to advance innovation and scientific discovery.
Why should I do this?
There are so many reasons! First of all, you can help give someone a voice — that’s powerful. A banked voice would make it possible to re-create your voice should you ever lose it in the future. Your voice may also spark new discoveries and innovations in speech technologies, biometrics and health diagnostics. Together we can change lives!
What do I need to do to donate my voice?
Becoming a speech donor is simple, rewarding and even educational! All you need to record is an Internet connection, a microphone, a quiet place, and a computer or smartphone running the Chrome browser. You will be asked to read or repeat short sentences that, together, cover all the combinations of sounds that occur in the language (we are starting with English but the concept can be extended to other languages). The more of your speech we have and the higher your recording quality is, the clearer and more natural a voice we can create.
How long does it take?
We need about three to four hours of speech from each donor — though even an hour of speech can go a long way! You don’t have to do this all at once. You can take your time and break it up into small sessions of around 15-20 minutes, so that you can record your best voice.
Do I need to sound like a radio announcer?
Absolutely not! Our voice recipients are children and adults who need a voice that reflects their identity. So we need donors to reflect a wide variety of people, talking in their normal, clear speaking manner.
Will others recognize me in someone’s voice?
The VocaliD™ voice is always a blend of your speech and the recipient’s voice, except when banking your own voice for future use. While it is possible, it is very unlikely that others will recognize you — unless, of course, you have a famous or well-known voice!
VocaliD is dedicated to making synthetic voices more human. Leveraging years of research and development, we’re designing customized vocal personas that empower our users to be heard.
Add your voice to the VOICEBANK! You can help someone find their vocal identity.
Here is an article in The Atlantic on December 18, 2014, “Donate Your Voice to Charity” which gives more on the story.