Respeecher Revives Yogi Berra’s Voice for a Reproduction of His Virtual Self
Yogi Berra was one of the greatest baseball catchers in history, winning three Most Valuable Player awards and leading the Yankees to 10 World Series championships. The player died in 2015, at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy in Major League Baseball.
It comes as no surprise that the world doesn’t just forget sports legends. In fact, we tend to cling on to their legacy well into their retirement. Thus, we even go as far as to “revive” them once they’re gone. Over the past 70 years, Yogi has been one of the most successful faces in advertising.
Gary Jesch, an experienced performance animation artist with CHOPS Live Animation, a company bringing virtual characters to life, created an animated version of Yogi Berra to allow him to host live digital performances.
The only significant element Gary and CHOPS lacked was ensuring that Yogi Berra’s avatar could speak using his actual voice. And sure, Respeecher was happy to step in.
Gary Jesch managed to create a Virtual Yogi a few years earlier. However, besides creating an image of the baseball catcher, Gary wanted him to sound like Yogi Berra.
What made this especially complicated is that Yogi Berra is also famous for his “Yogi-isms” - hilariously witty quotes and sayings about baseball, life, and all sorts of other topics. It was obvious that reviving the voice to help the legend’s avatar naturally verbalize his famous quotes was not only complex but mandatory to do Berra justice.
To achieve that level of reproduction for Berra’s voice, Jesch turned to Respeecher.
Yogi Berra’s family permitted Jesch to create an avatar of the baseball player with voice overs. This was an important part of Jesch’s cooperation with Respeecher as we do not use any recorded or synthesized speech without the consent of their owners.
Once we had consent, Respeecher’s technology went to work performing its magic:
- An artificial intelligence-based algorithm analyzed the voices of Yogi Berra and Gary Jesch.
- The system learned the unique features of each voice, precisely those that make each one stand out by itself.
- Then, Jesch recorded sayings, and our system reproduced them using the voice of Yogi Berra while preserving the natural features of the transformed dialog.
In order to create the most authentic model of Yogi Berra’s voice possible, Respeecher took one hour of original vocal recordings of the player. By analyzing older recordings, Respeecher made it possible to synthesize audio content that sounds exactly like him.
Respeecher’s voice cloning technology helped convert Gary Jesch’s voice and sayings into a perfect synthesis of Yogi Berra.
“Respeecher’s work on my Virtual Yogi project was so impressive that people are asking me about new interactive virtual projects for celebrities. On my end, it seemed effortless, but I’m sure there was a lot of work done to produce the cloned voice of Yogi Berra so accurately. The final product is incredible – now I sound just like Yogi Berra when I perform live, in real time!” said Jesch.
Our next stage of collaboration is to integrate Respeecher’s technology into Gary’s live shows as he brings Virtual Yogi to life at special events and baseball games.
Thanks to advancements in technology, Yogi’s most famous saying, “It ain't over 'til it's over,” has been rematerialized. Even after passing away, he is able to spread his philosophy to new generations and old fans alike.
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Media, Communication & Film Studies, Muhlenberg College
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