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Stephen Hawking has one of the most recognizable digital voices. However, because of the limitations of older digital voice technology, his voice is shared by people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

NASA/Paul Alers

Stephen Hawking has one of the most recognizable digital voices. However, because of the limitations of older digital voice technology, his voice is shared by people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

Hanalei Pham, Staff Writer

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Over 10 million people don’t have a voice of their own. These people rely on machines to generate voices for them, yet the voices that these machines provide generally sound the same. They are mechanical and robotic, and rarely unique to the person.

With VocaliD, this is beginning to change.

Founded in 2014, VocaliD made it their mission to give people without a voice a voice of their own. By blending the voices of voice donors, VocaliD creates custom voices. According to the VocaliD site, “Today, our voicebanking platform boasts over 11,000 members from over 110 countries contributing upwards of 4.5 million sentences, to power voices as colorful as humanity.”

VocaliD founder and speech scientist Rupal Patel said in a TED talk in late 2013, “We wouldn’t dream of fitting a little girl with a prosthetic limb of a grown man, so why then the same prosthetic voice?”

With Carlmont’s first “Voicedrive” coming to a close, each participant has recorded and “donated” a complete set of 3500 sentences, approximately seven hours of recording.

In October 2015, senior Sarah Schisla started the Voicedrive at Carlmont and began gathering volunteers to donate their voices.

“VocaliD aims to provide augmentative and alternative communication device users with a cheaper, more personalized option. This is only made possible through those willing to donate their voices. The teenage ‘voicebank’ was really lacking, so I decided that my own high school would be a great place to start searching for donors,” Schisla said.

Some Carlmont students, including sophomore Anna Singer, have already finished recording all their sentences.

Singer said, “I feel really accomplished to have helped another person have a voice. I feel as though I have done something useful and helpful with my life. It was also kind of a relief when I finished, because even though it says it will be seven hours, it’s definitely a little more than that.”

According to Bloomberg, the first seven of the initial 60 subjects received their custom VocaliD voices in December 2015.

Digital voices are expensive. However, VocaliD voices cost around $1249, and Patel said to Bloomberg that she hopes to bring the price to below $1000.

“We set out […] to create custom-crafted voices, that captured [an individual’s] unique vocal identity,” said Patel.

Schisla said, “Although Carlmont’s official Voicedrive is ending, anyone can make an account and donate on their own, as long as they have Google Chrome, a microphone, and a quiet recording area.”

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About the Writer
Hanalei Pham, Scot Scoop Editor

Hanalei Pham is a Scot Scoop Editor. She also writes for The Highlander. She enjoys reading, painting, and doodling in the margins of her notebooks. She...

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