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2020

Hear me speak! iPad personal voices for communication

Posted by Paul Nisbet on the 4th June, 2024

Category Communication Aids Text-to-Speech

It is now possible to record your own voice (or ask someone to record theirs) on an iPad and make your own personal voice for communication. Let's see how it works and how it sounds.

Voices for AAC

Many people who use AAC devices to communicate want to talk with a voice that reflects their identity - their age, sex and where they come from - but until recently, the choice of voices available was pretty limited.

We first offered CereProc's Heather voice in 2008 and at that time it was the only Scottish accent computer voice available. Prior to that, Scots who used AAC pretty much had to sound like someone from the home counties in England or from North America. Children had to talk with an adult voice because there were no child voices.

In 2011 we sourced funding from Scottish Government to support CereProc to create the Stuart voice, and in 2019, Scottish Government again supported CALL and CereProc to create Andrew, Mairi, Callum and Isla for Scottish children and teenagers.

Moving on to 2024, there are now more voices available for people in Scotland who use AAC:

It's also possible to record your own voice (or ask someone else to record theirs for you to use) and this can be particularly appropriate for anyone who might be in danger of losing their ability to speak. Providers include:

Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy) recently got a new CereVoice Me voice with a Geordie accent and said:


It was very strange when I first heard it but in a good way. I’m extremely pleased to finally have my new voice. I’ve always wanted a Geordie accent. To be honest, there was nothing wrong with my other voice, except from the fact that it sounded very posh. It sounded like I should be reading the shipping forecast on radio four. So, it means a lot to me to finally be able to sound like my family and friends.

iOS Personal Voices

Apple new Personal Voice feature means you can record your own voice for free if you have good enough iPad or iPhone. Personal Voice works on iPhone 12 or later, iPad Air 5th gen, iPad Pro 11" (from 3rd gen) and iPad Pro 12.9" (from 5th gen).

You have to read 150 phrases, which takes around 15 minutes, and you can create multiple voices. This could be a lot of fun if you want to use a different voice for different situations. 

Here's how my Personal Voice sounds when speaking in the TD Snap AAC app. It definitely sounds like me - I recognise the dull, monotone delivery - but it also slightly sounds like I'm gargling Irn Bru (or another Scottish national drink).

For comparison, here's Stuart, the first ever Scottish male voice from CereProc:

And Ewen, a Scottish west coast voice from Speak Unique:

Andrew, the Scottish boy's voice from CereProc, sounds like this:

and we'll leave the last word to Heather, the original Scottish Voice

There's no doubt to my ears that the 'ready-made' voices sound smoother and more natural than my iPad Personal Voice but I suppose the point is that my iPad voice sounds like me, and that could be really important if you can't find a ready-made voice that suits your personality or identity.

At present it seems that your personal voice can only be used with Live Text on the iPad (it's not available in VoiceOver or Speak Selection) or with an app that has that capability such as TD Snap. But I expect that more app developers will add the option to use a Personal Voice to their apps in future.

Apple says that "You can sync your Personal Voice to other devices that have been signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID" but I couldn't get it to appear on my iPad 9th generation. I hoped I could record and create my voice on the iPad Pro and then sync it to my older iPad, but it doesn't seem to work.

So definite progress regarding voice choice since my last article on the topic in 2019!

 

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