Donating Your Voice for MND
Technology is changing and enhancing our lives today more so than in any other period of history. There are some amazing gadgets and software that is being used to make our world more accessible to disabled people than ever before. One research project which caught our eye was the VoiceBank project.
Many people lose their own voice through injury or neurodegenerative conditions and have to rely on technology to communicate. For example, 80-95% of people with Motor Neurone Disease will experience communication problems. (MND Assc) The problem with many of communication devices that is they have a limited range of pre-installed voices. The Voice Bank research project is looking at ways to make synthetic voices sound as much like the user’s own voice as possible.
The VoiceBank is developing technology which can be used to record and synthetically recreate a person’s voice before they lose it. Using a recording of an individual’s voice, and those of accent matched voice donors from a volunteer bank, specialised software can automatically build their personalised synthetic voice. If speech has already started to deteriorate by the time of the recording, the software can also use more of these donor voices to repair any problems with the voice during the build process. The technology would also be a great comfort to families as they can once again hear their loved one’s voice.
Andrew, part of the team at Euan’s Guide, volunteered to have his voice recorded for the project. Andrew reported back that the process was really easy: ‘I just had to read aloud the text which appeared on a screen into a microphone in a soundproof studio. It felt like I was on the radio!’. The research project is still looking for volunteers to assist their research by having their voice donated and added to the bank. If you are interested, please see their website for more information.