Just after I first arrived in Korea, I was listening to NPR TED Radio Hour when I heard Rupal Patel being interviewed about her big new idea for synthetic voices. I was so inspired by the story, and I remember tearing up when I heard some of the voices that were created for people with speech disorders. The new technology blends together the speech sounds of a person who is unable to speak with sounds from a voice donor and creates a brand new, unique computerized voice for the individual. Until recently, many people with speech disorders communicated using the same voice – regardless of whether they were old or young, male or female. This idea, while simple, strikes me as so incredibly powerful. Yes, of course, it makes a difference. Imagine only being able to communicate in a voice that doesn’t sound anything like you – I know it would make a difference to me to be able to use a voice that I could recognize as my own.
Ever since I heard the story, I was inspired to help out. I checked on the website every few weeks or so, and signed up for the mailing list to hear news. The people behind this initiative have been working very hard to create a platform for regular people to donate speech sounds from their homes instead of needing to visit a recording studio. I can understand why a project of this scale has taken so long to actualize, and I was just excited for the day it would be ready.
I never did get an email with news, but yesterday when I went on the website, I was finally able to set up an account and start recording in their Beta mode. You can learn more about the voicebank here, and if you are interested you can sign up for an account yourself. They need about 3-4 hours of speech total to create a collection of several voice sounds that they’ll be able to blend with other sounds to make a brand new voice. In case you’d be concerned: the resulting voice wouldn’t be recognizable as your own.
I’ve done a couple sessions so far and while it’s a slow process, I’m enjoying it and happy to be contributing in this small way. I encourage you to check out the website and see what you think!