Lee Ridley's, a.k.a. Lost Voice Guy, is only British stand-up comedion using an AAC device. His new film sketch, Voice by Choice, follows three people who use speech-synthesis technology as they meet at a speed-dating event. As the three romantic hopefuls make their introductions, they notice they all have the same voice - even though one is a woman and two are men. There are some awkward pauses as they give each other time to get their words in order on their machines, and comic mishaps with predictive text - all based on real-life experiences. Lee says he would be lost without his machine. However, "it's pretty disappointing when you want to express how you feel and it just doesn't come out right.", he says.
"To build the voice, we record a real person for 15-18 hours and the data gets cut up into little pieces and stitched back together so the voice can say anything - even things the person never said," says Chris Pidcock, chief voice engineer at CereProc, a company that develops speech-synthesis technology. "Because making these voices takes a lot of effort and expense, most people in the past focused on neutral sounding voices. People were quite cautions, but this is changing," he says.
It is really hard to put emotion in text-to-speech voices, because the voice does not know what the speaker's intentions are. "Text-to-speech is getting better. But it can never replace human speech. People are spectacular in terms of all the nuances they can offer," says AssistiveWare's David Niemeijer.