Man With Motor Neuron Disease Given Computer Voice With Yorkshire Accent
Jason Liversidge, 41, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2013. Motor neurone disease affects cells that control muscle activity that includes walking, swallowing and talking. He became part of a new project which gives MND patients a computer voice technology with a Yorkshire accent.
Liversidge is originally from Scarborough, North Yorkshire and knows one day he will not be able to speak. As his condition progresses, he would need 30 Yorkshire men to program a voice synthesizer. It is similar to the one the famous physicist Professor Stephen Hawking used.
Liversidge, who now lives in Rise near Hornsea, East Yorkshire said his brain knows exactly what to say but since his muscles don't work like they used to, he stutters. He wishes to keep a form of identity with his voice and said he doesn't want to sound like a computer. For his kids and wife Liz he wants to sound as himself.
BBC reported that Anne Rowling Clinic, an Edinburgh research Centre that specialized in degenerative diseases has been helping Liversidge to create a personal synthetic voice with their project called Speak:Unique. The Centre was set up by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
Liversidge's speech has already started to slur. Scientists aimed to repair the flaws by finding people with a similar accent to read 400 phrases to a computer. The recorded phrases have been broken down into sounds to recreate any word.
"Rather than trying to record every single word in the dictionary, we capture all those sounds so that we can use them in any other word in which they occur," said project researcher Dr Phillipa Rewaj.
According to iTV, Rewaj used a recording of Liversidge's voice from a speech he made at his sister's wedding and voices of Yorkshire men voice donors. One of them was Jason's best friend Phil White.
The new voice created by the clinic can be controlled using eye movements, focusing on letters to type out what he wants to say. The clinic has worked on Scottish voices since it opened in 2011. Liversidge's is the first Yorkshire accent.