For the past several years, film critic Roger Ebert has been unable to talk, due to complications from cancer surgery that left him without a lower jaw.
But thanks to CereProc, a company that mines words and syllables from existing audio sources (such as the many commentary tracks and TV shows Ebert has recorded) and sets them up in a text-to-speech application, Ebert is now able to “speak” with a voice that is noticeably his. It will never be mistaken for his “real” voice from days of old, but it sounds a lot better than the stock speech synthesizer he had been using.
Perhaps someday something like this can make its way into readers like the Kindle: instead of an artificial computer voice, you could have your favorite actor or TV personality read an e-book to you. But for now, I’m thrilled that it is helping Ebert, whom I have long respected, to communicate again.