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NATIONAL NEWS

Groundbreaking tech changes lives for people with ALS

Apr 25, 2018

Washington, D.C. — The ALS Association has announced the launch of “Project Revoice,” an international initiative to help people with ALS, also known as Motor Neurone Disease, record their voices so they still use their “voice” after they lose their ability to speak. The new technology, powered by the Canadian company Lyrebird, can recreate high-quality voices with only a few hours of “voice banking.”

To demonstrate the power of this innovation, Project Revoice has given Pat Quinn, co-founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a recreation of his voice. Quinn did not record or bank his voice before ALS robbed him of his ability to speak, but using footage from his many Ice Bucket Challenge interviews, Project Revoice was able to clone his voice. See a video at http://projectrevoice.org.

Quinn said: “This takes speech tech to a whole new level and means everything to how I communicate. I really didn’t like to hear my old computer voice, so I often avoided getting involved in conversations. This technology gives me back a vital piece of myself that was missing. After hearing my voice through this new technology, I was blown away! For patients to know that they can still speak in their own voice after ALS takes it away will transform the way people live with this disease.”

Project Revoice is now working to encourage ALS/MND communities around the world to record their voices so they can be digitally recreated in the future using the innovative new voice cloning technology from Lyrebird. The company’s state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms create artificial voices that sound more natural than has ever been possible. Using just two to three hours of high-quality audio recordings, this model can synthesize the essence of a voice and build a complete digital recreation. Project Revoice linked this tech with eye reader assistive technology to enable Quinn to deliver words in his original, unique voice, rather than a “machine” voice.

“Recreating Pat’s voice and hearing him use it for the first time with his friends and family was truly inspirational,” said Brian Frederick, executive vice president for communications at The ALS Association. “Our next step is to build this into a program to ensure that people with ALS can maintain that unique part of themselves — their voice — even after they lose the ability to speak. This amazing new technology will make it much easier and quicker for people with ALS to record their voices so they can later be recreated.”

Project Revoice was the brainchild of Oskar Westerdal and René Schultz, a Swede and a Dane, living and working in Australia. In collaboration with Lyrebird in Canada, Finch in Sydney, and The ALS Association in the USA, they spent a year to bring this revolutionary speech synthesis project to life. “This technology is 100 percent dependent on having consistent, high-quality voice material to work with. Since ALS/MND is a progressive and sometimes unpredictable disease, we believe it’s crucial to get the message out now and encourage more people to start voice banking while they still can, so they have the voice material necessary to create their ‘Revoice’ when the full application launches,” said Westerdal.

Project Revoice aims to encourage all those with voice degenerative diseases to record and preserve their voices, with a view to making the Project Revoice application available — at no cost — to the entire ALS/MND community by the end of 2018.

To learn more — and to sign up for updates on Project Revoice — visit www.projectrevoice.org.

To hear how your revoiced voice might sound, you can check a lower-quality demo version at www.lyrebird.ai.

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