Dell and Intel’s project uses voice banking technology to explain and humanize the condition
A devastating aspect of motor neuron disease(MND)—a neurodegenerative condition that deteriorates muscular nerve cells—is that it can take away the ability to speak. To help those living with MND maintain their personal expression, Dell Technologies and Intel, in partnership with the U.K.-based Motor Neurone Disease Association and Rolls-Royce, created a first-of-its-kind book that banks people’s voices as they read aloud.
The book, titled I Will Always Be Me, is an interactive online experience that uses voice banking technology to create a digital version of the reader’s voice. New York Times bestselling author Jill Twiss wrote the book from the perspectives of different people living with MND. It aims to explain and humanize the condition, while encouraging people to take action earlier in their diagnosis.
The process is simple. People visit the website IWillAlwaysBeMe.com, open the book and read it to their friends and family. As they read, their voice is automatically recorded.
When all the pages are recorded, the user can review it and re-record any parts as necessary. They can then send the recording to voice banking provider SpeakUnique to have a digital voice record and will also get a unique link to share their version of the book with others.
Voice banking is a process that extracts specific sounds from a recording and aligns them with pre-written text. An algorithm then extrapolates unique voice characteristics to create a synthetic voice that can be installed on any assistive technology device.
Why a digital book?
What’s unique about this project for people with MND is that it starts the process of developing a synthetic voice earlier. The best time to get a good digital rendering is when the person’s own voice is still intact.
It also simplifies the process so users can bank their voice from home on a personal device, surrounded by loved ones to create a shared experience. The current process of voice banking is less seamless, with people typically reading disconnected phrases into a microphone.
Creative agency VMLY&R created the project, which launched with a short documentary film showing people with MND and their families experiencing the book for the first time.
“It’s not often you get to build your client’s brand and push humanity forward all at the same time,” Wayne Best, chief creative officer of VMLY&R New York, said in a statement. “Through the power of creativity, collaboration and technology, we’ve created an advanced voice banking tool that solves a complex problem in the simplest and most human way possible.”