Sunday, February 28, 2016

VocalID: A Voice Banking Company

As CSD students, we recognize that a person’s ability to communicate is a huge factor in one’s identity and quality of life. For those that are unable to use their own voice to speak, various Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices can be groundbreaking for an individual to express their wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. With changes in technology and advancing knowledge in Speech Science, the possibilities for AAC devices are continually growing.
 As useful and appreciated as these devices are, they often use the same robotic, computerized voice that may not fit the client’s identity. A company called VocaliD is working to change that. Using principals from Acoustics and Speech Science, VocaliD uses a recording from a client’s production of a vowel and blends it to the voice of a donor to create a unique voice to be used on an AAC device. President and Founder of the company, Rupal Patel, became inspired to create VocaliD after watching a young girl and an older man have a conversation using the same synthetic voice. Recognizing that even people with limited speech have a unique vocal identity, VocaliD hopes to provide each client with a voice that matches their unique personality.
According to Dr. Longerbeam, who is JMU’s professor of the graduate level AAC course, some of the newer AAC devices come with some options to match the voice to at least the gender and possibly the age range of the device user. However, she stated that the choices are still very limited, and the voices are often still robotic and fail to match the unique identity of the client. Dr. Kuo, a professor in the department who specializes in speech science and motor speech disorders, explained that the foundation of Dr. Patel’s work is based on our understanding of the speech mechanism as a source-and-filter system.  By changing the source and filter characteristics, individualized voices and speech sounds can be created. Dr. Kuo continued to express that VocaliD and similar speech banking companies that allow clients to express their feelings to their loved ones in their own, unique voice can be extremely meaningful for both the clients and their families.
The company takes donations of voice from anyone with a computer, microphone, and 3-4 hours to record their voice. Using the Chrome browser from their own computer, a voice donor repeats many sentences that when put together cover all of the sounds that occur in English.

To learn more about the company and to donate your voice, please visit:

The Official VocaliD Website:
https://www.vocalid.co
TED Talk featuring Rupal Patel, the founder of VocaliD: http://www.ted.com/talks/rupal_patel_synthetic_voices_as_unique_as_fingerprints
Wall Street Journal article about a client who received a voice from VocaliD: http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-people-who-cant-speak-can-sound-like-themselves-1455592266