Film critic Roger Ebert, who lost his ability to speak after a series of cancer-related surgeries, is now able to ‘talk’ again with the aid computer audio technology.
CereProc, a Scottish company has captured the voice from his DVD commentary tracks so he can type what he wants to say and have a computer emulate his voice.
The new artificial voice sounds which Ebert has dubbed Roger Jr. sounds similar to him can will be heard predicting Oscar winners on a segment of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ that will air on Tuesday.
“Yes, Roger Jr. needs to be smoother in tone and steadier in pacing, but the little rascal is good,” he explains in his weekend column. “To hear him coming from my own computer made me ridiculously happy.”
“They transcribed and programmed and tweaked and fiddled, and early this February, sent me the files for a beta version of my voice. I played it for (wife) Chaz, and she said, yes, she could tell it was me. For one thing it knew exactly how I said ‘I.'”
“CereProc is now blending in my audio snippets for ‘Casablanca,’ where I sound enthusiastic, and ‘Floating Weeds,’ where I sound calm and respectful. It’s nice to think of all these great movies sloshing around and coming out as my voice.”
Although Ebert hopes that he can one day use the voice for radio, he is most excited about being able to communicate with his grandchildren with something other than “off-the-shelf computer voices like Alex.”
“I could talk with Chaz and our grandchildren and it would be me, not Alex.”
Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. He has since undergone numerous surgeries and complications in 2006 led to more surgery and months of recuperation.