VOCAL WISDOM

The idea that living organisms function according to the laws of physics, and could in principle be simulated by means of mechanical constructions, is a scientific hypothesis. In the early seventeenth century, Descartes presented the thesis that animals are, in fact machines.

Three hundred years on, science and technology has come a long way. But ever since the robot HAL 9000 spoke its first words in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” four decades ago, most people have known computers can speak. And when Stephen Hawking started using a voice synthesizer in the 1980s, we saw that humans could use computers to voice their thoughts. Stephen hawking uses a synthesized voice due to medical challenges and his audience is never disappointed ; they come to listen to his thoughts. But if you had a computer impersonating, say George Clooney’s voice, you would be very disenchanted, because you came to listen to the way he speaks, his rich timbre, intonation, modulation and expressions. And this is an area where technology is still embryonic.

Given how far we’ve come in generating completely photo-realistic artificial images in CGI, one would have thought that creating or imitating voices would have been a breeze, and yet it’s clear that the opposite seems to be the case. Even generating a credible artificial voice of a particular person, from scratch has proven to be an extremely difficult task. Those that are even moderately convincing are actually generated from sampling real voices. The market forces that propelled the CGI revolution really had to do with producing images that couldn’t be brought to an impressive fruition if produced otherwise, that is by actually shooting them with a camera. But if you really wanted to have a scene with Humphrey Bogart’s voice you could find somebody to mimic it almost certainly as convincingly as you could by generating it by way of computer. Thus the time and the resources required for propelling this technology forward may not be deemed tenable.

But some individual’s have had an extraordinary desire to replicate their voice artificially. When film critic Roger Ebert, who lost his voice following complications from thyroid cancer in 2006, unveiled a prototype of his newly synthesized voice on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” a year ago, and again this March at the TED conference in Long Beach, reports described it as “miraculous,” “experimental” and “amazing.”

It was ultimately by sampling a gigantic volume of the “target” person’s voice and then manipulating this database by the computer, that a realistic artificial speech could be developed.

“Someone who’s desirous of artificially generating his own voice because of medical reasons or otherwise can record his speech in advance,” says Carnegie Mellon’s Black.

For this, the individual receives a transcript of about 10,000 prompts to be read aloud and recorded on the computer. The prompts need to encapsulate all speech sounds necessary for the English language today — including rarer sounds like “oy,” a soft “j” or sounds that appear in words of foreign origin (nasal vowels, for example). Also, each sound needs to appear in multiple language environments — for example, the t-sound in cat, stop, button, etc. — and in both function and content words. The software records and labels these sounds based on the original transcript and coalesces them into new words as needed.

In the late 1990s, for example, Black worked with a Japanese company to synthesize Bill Clinton’s voice from available data, and when CereProc synthesized President Bush’s voice several years ago, they used found data from his presidential speeches.

So if you envisage a time when you could type in a sentence and then choose from a menu any favorite person of yours say Sean Connery or Amitabh Bachchan, hoping to embellish the line using his baritone– well, this scenario is still miles away.

 

Baritone

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; lower in range than tenor and higher than bass; noun the second lowest brass wind instrument; the second lowest male singing voice; a male singer

Synonyms : voice

Breeze

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; any undertaking that is easy to do;

Synonyms : cinch

Coalesces

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; fusess or causes to grow together; mixes together different elements

Synonyms : blends

Credible

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; appearing to merit belief or acceptance; capable of being believed; a common but incorrect usage where credulous’ would be appropriate

Synonyms : believable

Disenchanted

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; freed from a strong magical influence.

Synonyms : crestfallen

Embellish

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; make more beautiful; add details to; make more attractive by adding ornament, colour, etc.; be beautiful to look at

Synonyms : fancify, grace, deck

Embryonic

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; in an early stage of development;

Other Meaning(s) : of an organism prior to birth or hatching

Synonyms : budding

Encapsulate

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; put in a short or concise form; reduce in volume;

Other Meaning(s) : enclose in a capsule or other small container

Synonyms : capsulise

Envisage

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case

Synonyms : visualize

Fruition

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; something that is made real or concrete

Other Meaning(s) : Noun; enjoyment derived from use or possession; the condition of bearing fruit;

Synonyms : realization

Impersonate

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; deceiving by pretending to be some other person

Synonyms : pose

Intonation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the production of musical tones (by voice or instrument); especially the exactitude of the pitch relations; the act of singing in a monotonous tone; singing by a soloist of the opening piece of plainsong; rise and fall of the voice pitch

Synonyms : cantillation

Modulation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the act of modifying or adjusting according to due measure and proportion (as with regard to artistic effect); (electronics) the transmission of a signal by using it to vary a carrier wave; changing the carrier’s amplitude or frequency or phase; a manner of speaking in which the loudness or pitch or tone of the voice is modified; rise and fall of the voice pitch; a musical passage moving from one key to another

Synonyms : inflection

 

Proffered

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; Presented

Synonyms : offered

Propelling

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; tending to take toward

Synonyms : driving

Prototype

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the original or model on which something is based or formed; someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model

Other Meaning(s) : Verb; to develop a prototype of something

Synonyms : model, sample, trial product

Simulated

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; reproduced or made to resemble; imitative in character; not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article

Synonyms : imitated

Singular

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the single one of its kind; beyond or deviating from the usual or expected; unusual or striking;

Other Meaning(s) : adjective being a single and separate person or thing; grammatical number category referring to a single item or unit; composed of one member, set, or kind; noun the form of a word that is used to denote a singleton

Synonyms : unique, curious, remarkable

Tenable

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; based on sound reasoning or evidence

Synonyms : viable

Timbre

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; (music) the distinctive property of a complex sound (a voice or noise or musical sound)

Synonyms : tone

Unnveiled

Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to reveal something that has been hidden or kept secret

Other Meaning(s) : take covering of something, to remove a veil or other covering from something, especially somebody’s face or plaque, monument, or artwork during a formal ceremony

Synonyms : uncover, to disclose

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