Friday, February 19, 2010

Scottish Software Company restores film critic’s voice

A legendary US film critic has been given his voice back thanks to a Scottish research team.

Roger Ebert, 67, lost the ability to speak almost four years ago, following life-saving cancer surgery.

He has since relied on hand-written notes, a form of sign language and a basic voice synthesiser to communicate.

Now a company based at Edinburgh University is using new computer technology to let him communicate with his own voice once again.

Mr Ebert is said to be "excited" about the move and he is expected to demonstrate the system in a TV interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Scottish firm CereProc is the company behind the development.

Chief technical officer Matthew Aylett said a prototype was delivered to Mr Ebert two days ago.

He said: "When Roger first heard it, he was very excited because he never thought he'd be able to communicate in his own voice again.

"We're very happy to have been able to use our technology in a way which is helping someone express themselves."

CereProc works with "text-to-speech" technology and specialises in producing voices which have character and emotion.

The research team became involved with Mr Ebert after he found out about their work online and contacted them last summer.

Fortunately for the veteran movie critic, his years of TV appearances and numerous DVD commentaries meant the research team had a wealth of audio material to draw upon.

The company was able to painstakingly reconstruct his voice by mining the recordings.

1 comment: