UC San Francisco neuroscientists can generate natural-sounding synthetic speech by using brain activity to control a virtual vocal tract – an anatomically detailed computer simulation including the lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. The study was conducted in research participants with intact speech, but the technology could one day restore the voices of people who have lost the ability to speak due to paralysis and other forms of neurological damage.
Stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) often result in an irreversible loss of the ability to speak. Some people with severe speech disabilities learn to spell out their thoughts letter-by-letter using assistive devices that track very small eye or facial muscle movements. However, producing text or synthesized speech with such devices is laborious, error-prone, and painfully slow, typically permitting a maximum of 10 words per minute, compared to the 100 to 150 words per minute of natural speech.
It is possible to create a synthesized version of a person’s voice that can be controlled by the activity of their brain’s speech centers. In the future, this approach could not only restore fluent communication to individuals with severe speech disability, the authors say, but could also reproduce some of the musicality of the human voice that conveys the speaker’s emotions and personality.
Brian Wang is a prolific business-oriented writer of emerging and disruptive technologies. He is known for insightful articles that combine business and technical analysis that catches the attention of the general public and is also useful for those in the industries. He is the sole author and writer of nextbigfuture.com, the top online science blog. He is also involved in angel investing and raising funds for breakthrough technology startup companies.
He gave the recent keynote presentation at Monte Jade event with a talk entitled the Future for You. He gave an annual update on molecular nanotechnology at Singularity University on nanotechnology, gave a TEDX talk on energy, and advises USC ASTE 527 (advanced space projects program). He has been interviewed for radio, professional organizations. podcasts and corporate events. He was recently interviewed by the radio program Steel on Steel on satellites and high altitude balloons that will track all movement in many parts of the USA.
He fundraises for various high impact technology companies and has worked in computer technology, insurance, healthcare and with corporate finance.
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