impaired speech case study

Respeecher Helps Patients with Speech Disabilities Recover Their Voice

 

Despite all the controversies, there is one thing that unites people around the adoption of modern technologies — when modern technologies transform and advance healthcare outcomes.

Now more than ever, those with illnesses and disabilities can choose from various gadgets, mobile applications, and other types of devices, all designed to make their lives easier. Thanks to technological innovations, people can get around many of the limitations caused by health conditions.

Voice cloning is one of these types of technologies that is capable of drastically changing the way people with speech and voice disabilities function on a daily basis. Respeecher expands on the positive impacts of voice cloning by helping patients that went through larynx removal recover the quality of their own voice and live a more normal life.

The Challenge

A laryngectomy is the surgical removal of the larynx (or voice box). It is usually done to treat severe or advanced-stage cases of laryngeal cancer. As a result of the surgery, patients lose their ability to speak and have to rely on voice-assistance technologies such as an electrolarynx or tracheoesophageal voice prosthesis (TEP).

However, there are certain challenges regarding these two ways of “fixing” voice disabilities.

Today, with an electrolarynx, patients must use various noise-reduction techniques and filtering systems to improve speech intelligibility. Currently, the technology responsible for improving electrolaryngeal speech intelligibility still has a long way to go. And while TEP speech is more natural than electrolarynx speech, it is still much less natural sounding than normal laryngeal speech.

These methods seek to restore a patient's ability to speak. The only issue is the low quality of voice that these technologies produce. Communication difficulties affect patients in their jobs, personal relationships, and social gatherings. Due to the lack of a mechanism that is capable of sufficiently improving the intelligibility of the electrolarynx and TEP speech, Respeecher’s voice cloning solution is here to help.

The Solution

In order to help laryngeal cancer patients achieve a higher quality of life, Respeecher is exploring the use of its technology on voice samples of electrolarynx and tracheoesophageal voice. The solution offers real-time intelligible voice replacement to improve support specifically for individuals who have undergone a laryngectomy.

Respeecher’s voice-changing technology transforms the unnatural sound of electrolarygeal and TEP speech into clearer, more articulated, and more intelligible audio. In particular, the technology dampens the mechanical hum of the electrolarynx and TEP voices while accentuating the natural tonal inflections. This makes it much easier to communicate with the patient.

The technology is deployable using a modified phone. Patients can communicate live through a speaker or use the technology for phone calls and other electronic voice communications. This is particularly important since patients report encountering the most difficulties when communicating with businesses and strangers.

The Result

After trialing voice cloning for laryngeal cancer patients, Respeecher was able to achieve a natural-sounding voice while preserving the patient's articulation.

Check below to compare the original voice samples from laryngectomy patients who use an electrolarynx and who underwent tracheoesophageal voice prosthesis with the Respeecher’s results after we input the samples into our voice synthesis technology. 

Electrolarynx before 1 U+2192.svg U+2192.svg Electrolarynx after 1
Electrolarynx before 2 U+2192.svg U+2192.svg Electrolarynx after 2

 

TEP speech before TEP speech after to male voice TEP speech after to female voice

 

Voice Cloning as an Assistive Tech

 

Respeecher’s first step in understanding that our technology can be helpful for people with voice health conditions, was the case with the actor Michael York

About ten years ago, the actor Michael York discovered he was suffering from amyloidosis. One of the most common symptoms of amyloidosis is swelling of the tongue, which makes it more difficult for people to speak clearly.

The actor decided to promote awareness of the disease by producing and narrating a short animated film to help physicians, medical students, patients, and people all around the world better understand the condition. 

As medicine and science are constantly evolving, the animated film had to be updated with a new dialog. The team hoped to record York’s voice to make edits. But it quickly became clear that the current state of his voice was drastically different from the voice he had when narrating the film. The production team cooperated with Respeecher to create a synthetic copy of the actor’s voice and prolong the life of his meaningful film. Learn more about his story HERE.

Today, Respeecher’s voice cloning algorithms can deliver critical benefits as an assistive technology to many of those who have lost their natural ability to speak.  People who suffer from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA),  laryngectomy and others, can greatly benefit from the technology. 

Respeecher is here to help eliminate communication barriers and give people a new quality of life.

Reviews

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Halsey Burgund

Co-Director In Event of Moon Disaster

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Ryan Steelberg

President and co-founder of Veritone

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David Romberg

Media, Communication & Film Studies, Muhlenberg College

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Abigail Savage

Sound Designer and Supervisor, Actress

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Michael York

Actor, Producer

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Tim Jones

Emmy Award Winning Animation Producer

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Joseph López Osorio

Marketing Technology Director, DDB Latina

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Edgardo Rivera

President & CEO, DDB Puerto Rico

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Joshua Madoff

Composer, Actor

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James Tumminia

Producer & President at Italus Films

We worked with Respeecher on a film called ‘In Event of Moon Disaster’ first shown at the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival 2019. They helped us create a synthetic voice of Richard Nixon to bring to life a never-read contingency speech in case the Apollo 11 mission went badly. We created a highly realistic film, in a large part due to their work. ‘In Event of Moon Disaster’ shows the creative possibility of voice replacement technology as well as highlighting just how realistic deepfake technologies can be, acting as a civic engagement project for the public along with contextual and educational resources.
For Veritone, the most important thing is ensuring our clients get access to technology without compromising on the ability to protect, the delivery speed and quality, and in this case, of the generated content. Respeecher's technology meets both requirements and has a proven track record of working with tier one projects.
When I approached the team at Respeecher with a very sensitive and personal documentary project, I didn't know what to expect. I’m happy to say that it has been an amazing experience. They are extremely professional, ethically minded and are genuinely passionate about bringing their innovative technology to the world. Their approach to the voice cloning process is highly personal and transparent. As a documentarian, it was important to me that the approach was ethical and human focused. The Team at Respeecher delivered on their promises and I could not be happier with the results.
Respeecher is a remarkable tool for Sound Editors. It delivers very high-fidelity recreations of a target voice, with transparent performance-matching of its source. It blows text-to-speech out of the water! The effect is uncanny and incredibly effective and I can imagine a whole slew of uses going forward. I am very excited to have discovered Respeecher, and it will be my go-to for voice recreation in the future, without question.
I am very grateful to Respeecher for giving my words and work a whole new lease on life. The technique involved is as ingenious as it is amazing, and promises a great future for all those involved in voice work. With Respeecher, the quality of the re-worked passages is indistinguishable from the original. History comes almost miraculously alive again. I heartily endorse this product.
Respeecher's source/target conversion of Mr. York's speaking voice demonstrably opens doors for the entertainment, education, and healthcare fields. Suffice it to say, it was an absolute honor to collaborate with them. Their brilliant accomplishment and timely delivery have allowed our humble project to be a success, exceeding our expectations for what's even possible.
Discovering Respeecher was the highlight of our project. They agreed to work with the task even when our training data was not of the best quality. The result was fantastic, and the level of detail was just outstanding.
Working with Reespecher was a unique experience. Their attentiveness to detail and dedication to this project allowed us to reconnect with one of our lost narration idols in Puerto Rico "Manuel Rivera Morales" on a new level. It gave his family and PR a glimpse of what could have been if he was still alive and narrating all sorts of Olympic sports games. It was truly magical to see this project come alive.
Working with Respeecher has been incredible. Their team was meticulous and patient, walking us through the process of developing an accurate model... and the final result was nothing short of miraculous. It really sounds like we’re hearing our (deceased) subject speaking again. Something I never would have thought was possible.
From the introduction to Respeecher’s innovative and state-of-the-art products to the thorough and quick technical support, I immediately felt that I found the perfect partner and technology for my projects’ needs. During our discussions, the team offered other creative options that assured me we were on the same page and had my project’s success as a top priority. The Respeecher team members are consummate professionals.
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