This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Your Voice

sxsw_ariel-gets-voice-back-oWhen I was in elementary school, I worked with the school’s speech therapist to record my voice to use on a soundboard for a student who could not speak.

It was pretty cool, if a little low tech and cumbersome. The board included individual words, like “water,” as well as shortcodes to access common sentences, like “May I have a glass of water please.” The unfortunate part was that any words not included on the soundboard could not be spoken, and so it was an imperfect tool.

When I was making my recording in the early 1990s, you had to have a bunch of special equipment and a dedicated recording space and all of that. Now, you can send over your voice straight from your laptop and use it to literally give voices to others—and they, in turn, can say anything they want without the limitations of a pre-set soundboard.

The company VocaliD is working to create The Human Voicebank, which allows people to freely donate their voices to be used in computer voice production. Simply push the button, say VocaliD’s pre-scripted sentences out loud, and your voice gets added to the voicebank.

Then VocaliD does its magic.

As The Atlantic notes, VocaliD isn’t in the business of giving other people your voice. It’s working to give people a unique voice of their own:

After taking a short recording from a recipient—who often can only vocalize as much as an “ahhh” sound—the VocaliD team selects a donor with a similar filter and uses a computer algorithm to layer one over the other.

Or, as VocaliD puts it:

The result is a hybrid voice that preserves the clarity of the donor’s recordings but conveys as much of the recipient’s vocal identity as possible.

What does this have to do with personal finance, you might ask? Well, it’s something wonderful that you can do for free. Like a lot of us, I’ve been making charitable donations as we approach the end of the year, but I’m also pretty much tapped out in terms of cash I can afford to give. During a month when many of us take a look at how we are giving back to our community, it’s pretty cool to know that there’s a way to give back that is as easy as taking your laptop into the bathroom and making a recording.

I’m going to donate my voice to VocaliD. Probably next Tuesday (if I don’t put it on the calendar I’ll never do it). I’ll let you all know if the process goes awry or if there’s anything weird you should know about; otherwise, assume it all went well.

And a very happy holidays to all y’all. :)

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