Speak:Unique, a new identity for the Voicebank Research Project
20 June 2016
Many of our supporters will already be familiar with the Voicebank Research Project. Established in 2011, this study has the ultimate aim of creating personalised digital voices for use in communication aids, simply and efficiently.
We are delighted that the Voicebank Research Project has now been rebranded as Speak:Unique. The Speak:Unique Voicebank Research Project at the University of Edinburgh aims to repair voices and reclaim identity for those who have lost or may lose the ability to communicate through speech.
This multidisciplinary project is a team effort, with clinical researchers from the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research and the Anne Rowling Clinic working with the University of Edinburgh Centre for Speech Technology Research.
Through this collaboration, we have developed technology that enables a synthetic voice to be tailored to reflect an individual's own speech patterns. These digital voices are designed to be used in voice output communication aids, such as that used by physicist Stephen Hawking.
The pioneering technology enables voices to be built using a short recording taken from one individual and blended with recordings taken from donors with similar vocal characteristics (i.e., age, sex, accent).
The use of donor voices is unique and means that an individual only has to make a short recording of around 20-40 minutes, rather than 6 or 7 hous required by other technologies, making the voice-build process more achievable. Another benefit of using donor voices as part of the build process is that the researchers can use these voices to help repair impairment that might be present in the individual's speech.
We are still looking for adult voice donors with particular Scottish accents to help complete our bank of Scottish voices. Recordings take place at the Anne Rowling Clinic in Edinburgh and take about an hour.