2020 was, without question, a year like none other. While there was division, there was also a tremendous sense of community, coming together to help and support its own. People spoke up, spoke loudly, and continued to speak… all for those that weren't being heard.
Within the assistive communication space, we have many accomplishments to share. We are proud to have welcomed 7k new Voicebank contributors, including our first from Greenland! And 57 students from the USSG International school in Guangzhou, China, participated in a Voice Drive in 2020! That brings the total number of our Human Voicebank users to over 87K today. Amazing, thank you!
Many of you know that we expanded our offerings in 2019 and began offering AI voice options to companies. We were receiving a growing number of inquiries in the enterprise business space as companies sought more robust and authentic-sounding text-to-speech voice options. Businesses that relied solely on traditional voice talent began seeking new ways to augment their content production processes — recognizing that their talent wasn't always available when they needed to deliver audible content.
We have developed Parrot Studio, an audible content creation platform to further serve our enterprise clients. A first of its kind offering for content creators, Parrot offers efficiency AND customization to the audio production process, bringing AI voice to a new level. Those already using it in BETA call it a unique creative tool that stands out over standard API deployments.
Finally, as we recap our achievements and advances, Meghan's article is an excellent segue into our technology. We continue to see massive improvements in the speed of voice building and reduction in data needed to create a voice. Today, VocaliD voices sound nearly identical to the individual who provided the source material, surprising those who have heard them side by side.
We recognize that speaking of AI voices that sound just like voice talent or using voice to impact behavior may excite people and raise concerns about what-ifs. We need to stress our commitment to ethics in all of these advances.
This year we have grown our team, and in response to Covid-19, shifted to remote work. We are so thankful for their continued dedication and ability to rise to new challenges through honest communication, humility, and the occasional embarrassing Zoom interruption from children, spouses, and pets.
Safe Home-Based Volunteering for Employee Enrichment Programs
CORPORATE EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEERING DURING COVID-19: VOICE SHARING
By Michele J Martin
Has COVID-19 disrupted your corporate employee volunteer participation? Consider adding home-based Voice Sharing with VocaliD to your CSR employee volunteer program roster.
What is Voice Sharing?
Voice sharing is a small gesture — with a huge impact. It is the simple act of recording yourself as you read aloud stories on VocaliD’s online studio. Those recordings are used to train a blended AI-voice (BeSpoke voice) for someone living with speechlessness. To learn more, visit BeSpoke voices.
Our global Human Voicebank initiative has over 76k contributors or all ages from over 120 countries. Their contributions have directly changed the lives of hundreds of individuals with speech impairment who use assistive technologies to communicate - now they have their own unique AI-voice. Voicebank contributors frequently message us to express how taking part in the movement has had a profoundly positive impact on them.
VocaliD is currently seeking English-speaking voices of all accents, ages, regional dialects, and gender identities to help build unique AI-voices for individuals living with speechlessness. Whether your office is based only in the US or internationally, if your employees are English speaking, they can participate.
The entry barrier is low; most individuals will already have access to the equipment required to Voice Share: a quiet room to record (without background noise or others), a desktop or laptop computer running Chrome, stable wifi, and an over-the-ear headset with positionable microphone.
Because of its flexibility, it is a perfect volunteer opportunity for your employees who wish to include their families, significant others, or roommates in a meaningful activity they can “do good” together while staying safely apart.
Easy to Implement
Adding VocaliD Voice Sharing into your existing CSR programs costs nothing. Set up is simple; all you need to do is contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org You can design your VoiceDrive program to work best for your particular business needs. Schedule participation within a set time frame or create an open-ended self-paced program so that new employees, interns, or consultants can engage and Voice Share at their convenience.
Other Ways to Support the Cause: Voice Sponsorship
In addition to running organization-wide VoiceDrives, companies may choose to further engage with the VocaliD mission by pre-purchasing voices for individuals in need. Voice Sponsorship is an excellent opportunity for companies to target specific communities or individuals — or to help more broadly. There is no minimum participation; your business can choose to sponsor 1 or 100 voices. Please note that because VocaliD is a for-profit organization (albeit with a strong social mission), thus these sponsorships will not be tax-deductible.
Promoting your Participation
This fall, corporate Voice Sharing partners will receive digital participation badges based on cumulative employee engagement in their VoiceDrives. You are welcome to use this across your marketing channels to promote your CSR activities. We are also offering an exclusive digital seal for those organizations that choose to become Voice Sponsors, which participating companies may also use in their promotional material.
Together, we can change lives!
Voice Sharing: A Home-Based Activity for Employee Volunteering
Take a look at our animated brochure or download the 2-page trifold below
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Voicebanking and Veteran's Month
VETERAN'S MONTH AT VOCALiD
By Michele J Martin
We are grateful for the sacrifices that our veterans have made for us. That’s why we have designated the entire month of November - Veteran's Month.
Each day 4.6 veterans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Some will lose their ability to speak. 50% of all cancer patients will experience feelings of depression and social isolation from the treatments and life changes post surgery. Our technology can help ease the transition and improve quality of life.
What does VocaliD do?
Through the combination of voicebanking and our AI-powered voice technology, we help individuals facing speech loss to maintain their social connections, self-identity, and autonomy.
To learn more about how VocaliD helps individuals, watch the voicebanking journey of Lonnie Blanchard, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force:
What is Voicebanking?
Voicebanking is the process of recording one’s speech prior to voice loss. An individual will use our website to record themselves reading sentences from pre-loaded stories. These recordings are then used to create a digital voice that sounds like them.
Individuals can also choose to contribute their voice recordings to someone who didn't have the opportunity to voicebank for themselves prior to voice loss. Whatever the reason, these people rely on the generosity of anonymous voicebank contributors whose voices are then used to build them unique vocal identities. To date, over 27k English-speaking volunteers from around their world have banked their voice for individuals in need. You can become a voicebank contributor too. It is easy, learn more here: Human Voicebank
What is Voice Synthesis?
Once we have the voicebank recordings we use our state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms and our speech and audio engineering expertise to build a unique AI voice the recipient. This voice will allow them to speak in their own voice, or a voice crafted especially for them, on a speech generating device such as a mobile phone or tablet.
What to expect with Veteran's Month?
Stay tuned each week for a new related blog post and make sure you are following our social media accounts, where we will be curating topically focused informative content for those interested in voicebanking, veterans health, and head and neck cancer. In addition, keep a watch out for other Veteran’s Day announcements this month! On social media be sure to follow along with (and use) #bankyourvoice and #voicedriveforvets to help drive awareness!
Here is how YOU can help:
If you are a physician or clinician caring for veterans with head and neck cancer, we want to talk to you about voicebanking and how it can help your clients and your practice.
Want to host a community or company voice drive for veterans? Email us at email@example.com to learn how easy it can be.
Don’t have a computer or quiet area in your home and looking for a place to voicebank? We have a network of clinics who support the mission and offer dedicated times and spaces for voicebanking. If you are in the Boston area you visit the Speech Preservation Clinic at Northeastern University Monday - Friday. Learn more and make an appointment here: Bouve Colleg of Health Sciences — Voice Preservation Clinic
Are you a veteran (or have a loved one who is) and want to help us spread the word about voicebanking for vets on your website or at your local VA hospital or VFW, we’d love to hear from you!
Together we can help those with speech loss be heard in their own voice
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The SEARCH FOR RORI's VOICE
MICHELE J MARTIN
One of the founding missions of VocaliD is to give voice to the voiceless. It fuels everything we do. Every time we are able to build and deliver one of our personalized synthetic voices to an individual and improve their lives, we are reminded of why we do this.
Chasing the Cure is a new television show that brings the power of crowdsourcing to medical mysteries. Cases that have been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, all desperate for a cure. The site features a list of different case files that visitors can read through and comment on. One of these case files was Rori.
We were so moved by Rori's case. As a speech scientist, our founder, Rupal Patel, was certain she could help, so she recorded a video message that we then posted on Twitter... hoping it would get in front of Rori and the team at Chasing the Cure.
Confident that we could help Rori to regain some of her lost vocal identity and independence, the video offered to build her a unique synthetic voice through the power of crowdsourced voices from contributors around the world. We made the offer and asked her to contact us if interested and then we waited.
On tonight's live premiere episode, our video made it in front of Rori.
VocaliD is honored that Rori saw our video and has accepted our offer to help. Now we need YOUR help.
Contribute your voice today and help us find a #VoiceForRori.
You can also help by spreading the word amongst your friends on social media by tweeting your involvement below!
Spread the word - Use #VoiceForRori and #ChasingTheCure
VOCALiD FEATURED ON NPR'S
HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST:
MICHELE J MARTIN
As Mr. Vedantam begins the podcast, "At some point in our lives, many of us realize that the way we hear our own voice isn't the way others hear us. And we begin to realize that our voices communicate so much more than mere information: they reveal our feelings, our temperament, our identity."
This sets the tone for the next 30 minutes in which voice as identity is looked at from several angles, including a transgender woman's struggle with hearing herself in her voice, a woman who experienced a drastic change in her voice after surgical intubation damaged her vocal cords, and in the case of speech disorders requiring speech generating devices to communicate, how the use of modern speech synthesis technology can provide these individuals with their own unique identifiable vocal identities.
"Voice is about who you are. Our voice signals how old we are. Our voice signals our gender. Our voice signals, you know, things about our personality."
- Rupal Patel, Founder & CEO - VocaliD
An important part of any technology conversation is "how do you mitigate the unintended outcomes?" and this is something Rupal and Shankar briefly touch upon. With the increase in deep fakes across media, Ms. Patel discussed the vulnerabilities and risks of new voice technologies, from political to financial impacts. She further stated that along with advances, there are ethical responsibilities that companies building these technologies must consider, and how VocaliD has designed ethical AI into our business.
In summary, this podcast is a wonderful introduction into the concept of voice as identity. Be sure to subscribe to Hidden Brain for more fascinating episodes as Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
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BeSpoke Voices Named Finalist
in 2019 Index Awards
MICHELE J MARTIN
VocaliD is honored that BeSpoke Voice has been named one of 42 finalists in the 2019 Index Awards. Nominated for the Body Category, BeSpoke Voice finds its place alongside innovative solutions such as Thumy, Petit Pli, MasSpec Pen, and Project Coelicolor.
Watch the BeSpoke finalist video below:
The Index Award is a biennial award launched in 2005 by The Index Project, a global design event that was established in 2002 by Kigge Hvid. While it was originally crafted as a way to promote Denmark as an innovative design nation, the project quickly took on a more global footprint. Its mission is a simple yet lofty one - "Design to Improve Life".
Since their inception they have given out 42 awards in 5 categories: Body, Home, Work, Play & Learning, Community, and a People's Choice. Winning products and team span the globe. Some of the previous winners of the Index Awards include Tesla (the only team to win twice - once for the the Tesla Roadster and again for the Tesla Powerwall rechargeable battery), Raspberry Pi, Ethereum Foundation, Duolingo, Paperfuge, The Ocean Cleanup Array, Labster, Fresh Paper, and the " Copenhagen Climate Adaption Plan".
"I felt it was important to create a solution that would give every individual a unique voice."
-Rupal Patel, CEO of VocaliD
When will we hear if we won? Well, the Index Award's ceremony takes place on September 6th, 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Regardless of whether we win, we are proud to be recognized alongside our esteemed global peers in technology and innovation. We will be cheering everyone on... and hoping for a win, of course!
Stay tuned for updates!
Learn more about BeSpoke Voice by VocaliD
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“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”
– Maya Angelou
Voice preservation options for individuals with communication difficulties due to head and neck cancer have previously been robotic or invasive, but now there is Vocal Legacy, a non-surgical smart voice prosthesis.
Current voice rehabilitation options for those facing the loss of speech after head and neck cancer treatment haven’t always been effective or ideal for all individuals. None of the current options have provided preservation of vocal identity in the way that Vocal Legacy does. While the electrolarynx, tracheoesophageal prosthesis (surgically implanted voice prosthesis), and esophageal speech allow the individual to speak on
Vocal Legacy – Smart Voice Prosthesis
Vocal Legacy utilizes VocaliD’s state-of-the-art speech processing technology and expertise in speech science to offer truly personalized vocal identities for those with limited speech. Once built, the voice prosthesis is delivered as a digital file that integrates with a speech-generating communication device or app, such as MyVocaliD (for iOS and Android).
The most obvious benefit to cancer survivors is the ability to regain control of daily conversations, professionally and with loved ones. For those undergoing speech, we have found that Vocal Legacy voices offer a powerful auditory model to help accelerate recovery.
To learn more about the impact of Vocal Legacy voices, please watch this short documentary by the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/video_and_audio/headlines/43786713/in-six-days-i-ll-lose-my-voice-forever
The key to a successful outcome is for clinicians to raise awareness of this option, and the need to begin
What exactly is
Voice Insurance for the What Ifs.
Voice Sharing for Others!
Thousands of individuals around the world have contributed to the voicebank to share their voice with those in need. Our proprietary voice blending algorithms transform their recordings to create unique voice identities.
Share YOUR voice to give the gift of voice!
To understand the origins of the voicebank, watch our founder Rupal Patel’s TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/rupal_patel_synthetic_voices_as_unique_as_fingerprints?