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Hi! Amazing Question! I’ve found out loads of new exciting information as a result of this question so thank you!
I’d never actually heard of The Human Voicebank before reading your question so thought it might be useful to begin with a little overview!
So what’s The Human Voicebank?
- Over ten million people live with voicelessness. Much like Stephen Hawking, they rely on text-to-speech devices to express themselves. Yet, young or old, male or female, shy or outgoing – they all speak with similar voices.
Stephen Hawking actually made a joke about needing a new voice after using the same voice for thirty years as part of this years Comic Relief sketches! (watch it here if you want to see Rebel Wilson, Gordan Ramsey and Simon Cowell audition to be Stephen Hawking’s new voice click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXOlfwlVag).
Not to mention the hundreds of millions of us who use generic sounding virtual assistants (ALEXA I’M LOOKING AT YOU!)
And even though Android suggest that I send Alexa to voice school (https://www.androidcentral.com/how-improve-alexas-voice-recognition) the people at VocalID and The Human Voicebank simply don’t think this is good enough! (and frankly I agree!)
So what are The Human Voicebank doing about it?
- Until now, the creation of synthetic voices began with auditioning a voice actor. They recorded speech in a professional studio for days or weeks. After this, an army of engineers and linguists spent three to four months labouring over the recordings to synthesize a voice.
- This issue with these process is that not only are digital voices expensive to create, but they also tend to be rather generic. (generic they may be but I’m sure we all secretly consider Siri a friend read this article if you want to find out more about the voice actor Susan Bennett who provided the voice for Siri! Bennet has also worked for companies like AT&T, Delta, Coca Cola and McDonalds, and describes the sassy Siri voice as simply her getting bored at the end of these sessions! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/voice-siri_n_4043134.html
- However, The Voiceband aims for any voice can be heard! By crowdsourcing the collection of voices, anyone can record from the comfort of their own home. Over 14, 000 speakers from over 110 countries have contributed over 6 million sentences to The Human Voicebank’s growing spoken repository.
Some of the services the company offer include: voice personalisation services for individuals with speech impairment who are able to record three seconds of sound, as well as voice preservation services for individuals who are seeking to preserve their voice and able to record several hours of speech (think parents working over-seas and wanting to read bedtime stories to their children, terminally ill loved ones, or even Allan Sugar preserving ‘you’re fired!’)
If you’re interested in signing up follow this link https://www.vocalid.co/voicebank.
Or if you want to think about alternative ways to record/save/donate your voice how about checking out Build-a-bear’s personalised Build-A-Sound message option. For only £5 you can record a personalised message for every occasion – I’ve heard of people using their baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy for this sort of thing but I’m sure you could think up loads of weird and wacky things to record! http://www.buildabear.co.uk/shop/store/BUILDASOUND%20WEB/productId=prod80915?CallingPage=Shop%2FSearchResults.aspx
This question also got my brain whirling over loads more voice-related commodity questions….
Why’re some voices considered more valuable than others?
This link sends you to an article explaining how Mariah Carey insured her voice for $35 million!
If you don’t like the way you sound, why would you want a personalised voice?
What does the enquiry ‘I don’t just want my voice, I want it to be deeper and more distinct’ from the FAQ section of The Voicebank’s webpage say about the society we live in? And what does their option of a ‘Voice Lift’ to make you sound younger say?
What about if your ability to pay for a voice is limited?
Crowdfunding voices, what a bizarre idea….
Hope this helps a bit!
Your friendly Commodity Consultant Lizzie!