The Human Voice Trumps Siri's World -
At Least For The Foreseeable Future
March 30, 2016
By Bobbin Beam
No, the title of this article has nothing to do with a certain political candidate running now for U.S. President. I'm referring to a recent article in Wired about brain researchers who have repeatedly attempted to perfect brain-to-computer interfaces by using various electrode implants and prosthetics.
Researchers at Brown University initially had some success with subjects who could control a robotic arm with the mind using neural brain implants.
As fascinating as the progress was, one researcher, neurosurgeon Phil Kennedy, was more intent on pursuing the more challenging concept of brain-to-computer speech cognition.
COMPLEXITY OF HUMAN SPEECH
Kennedy knew that human speech is vastly more complex than robotic arms.
It involves the orchestrations and contractions and releases of more than 100 different muscles, from the diaphragm, face, throat, vocal folds, tongue and lips to be intelligible.
And to fabricate a minimally invasive and compact brain implant electrode that could accurately orchestrate the complexity of vocal language with only a few wires was a huge hurdle.
Kennedy’s research project eventually ran out of money and the FDA revoked approval of the use of implants.
STILL, SOME PROGRESS
Still, there has been some progress on brain-to-speech.
For instance, algorithms have been created for prostheses that assist patients with ALS and others who can no longer speak. But the outcomes are not always 100% accurate.
And of course, software for voice recognition, TTS and Siri speech has been around for decades.
Kennedy says all this helps superficially, but isn’t very useful in the real world. "Siri’s not good enough, " he says.
I’ve heard script to speech synthesizer recordings and agree with Kennedy. We’re a long way away from perfecting artificial intelligence.
So, what does it all mean to the voice over world? Considering the complexity of human emotions, passion, expressiveness and the myriad of ways one can read a single line, it may take a lot more time to even come close to human vocalization that any app will offer.
Bobbin Beam has been a full-time voice over talent and voice actress since 1985, and is currently based near Milwaukee, WI. She's a signature imaging voice of various television and radio stations worldwide. Working mostly "from the trenches” at her broadcast-quality home studio, she voices radio and television commercials, promos, programs, corporate videos, narrations, audiobooks, e-Learning, documentaries, explainer videos, and apps. Her clients include ABC, Disney Parks, Discovery Channel, Mitsubishi, Merck, Toyota, Citgo, Nivea, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Pro Flowers and LA Times.
The Wired article
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