Let’s start this blog post off by giving a brief explanation of what voice banking is. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists describe voice banking as “a process for creating a personalised synthetic voice, a synthetic approximation of a person’s natural voice.” This sums it up nicely.
The process involves an individual recording their speech. This is typically a number of set sentences to make sure all the possible sound combinations are captured and can then be synthesised in to any words the individual desires.
The synthetic voice can then be uploaded to an AAC device such as Grid and used as your communication method – A much better option than Microsoft Sam!
Usually, the number of sentences that are required to be recorded is in the hundreds, which sounds like a hefty task, but with the rapid improvement of technology, this can easily be achieved in a couple of hours.
However, this depends on several factors including, the software used, and the abilities of the individual banking their voice. Because many people who choose to bank their voice are AAC users, they often have additional needs to take into account when voice banking. For example, a brain injury may affect a person’s speech resulting in slurred and unclear communication. Or they may experience fatigue much faster, making the task take longer, or over several sessions.
We have been using a website called Speak Unique with some of our clients. Speak Unique caters for all types of individual needs. Their service offers three options, depending on your circumstances:
Voice Build – Simply to build a synthetic voice
Voice Repair – If your voice is already impaired, you might be becoming more breathy or struggling to articulate words.
Voice Design – If individuals have no intelligible speech, they can design their own bespoke synthetic voice for their communication device.
One feature we really enjoyed, was being able to select from a handful of genres and books when it came to recording the sentences. This type of task can be arduous at the best of times, but it sure does help to have a book you are somewhat interested in reading to make the task fly by!
Another great feature we found, when you have successfully banked your voice, within 24 hours you will receive five synthetic voice options to pick from. Now, it’s quite eery hearing a voice that sounds just like you saying a sentence you have never said before, but it’s great to be able to have a few options to pick from to make sure you are completely satisfied with your synthetic voice – after all, it might be doing all the talking for you!
After using Speak Unique ourselves, we do find the website user experience a bit clunky. When a recording isn’t satisfactory the website throws out a blanket error window of “the microphone was too close to you, try moving it away” even when that isn’t the problem. We suggest recording the sentences into another recording software and then uploading those files directly to the website as we found this method much easier.