Professor Rupal Patel is Tackling Speech Loss With AI

Speech scientist Rupal Patel is recording people who are at risk of permanently losing their voices and creating a new voice engine that sounds like them.

12.11.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo of Rupal Patel speaking at TED
Photo of Rupal Patel speaking at TED

People at risk of permanently losing their voice now have access to a new sort of treatment, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which could change their lives forever.

As reported in The Guardian, VocaliD has opened a new centre, the Voice Preservation Clinic. Here, people can record up to three hours of their voice—reading speeches, poems or short stories—in a high quality environment.

Then, VocaliD feeds this data into a machine-learning AI programme and creates a voice engine which sounds just like the user. It’s so sophisticated that it’s able to not only repeat words they’ve said, but it can use their voice for sounds, words and phrases that they’d never pronounced.

All people have to do is type, and the machine speaks for them.

The idea of the clinic, a joint effort with Northeastern University in Boston, is to help people faced with diseases like throat cancer or motor neurone disease retain a sense of their identify—by helping them ‘sound like themselves.’



Rupal Patel, a speech scientist and founder and chief executive of VocaliD, told The Guardian that her intention is to widen access for people who need voice services.

“Oftentimes, [patients] will come to us at the last minute,” she said to the paper. “They don’t have enough time to bank their voice and they are also just so enveloped in their disease and then the surgery – that is very stressful.

“With the cancer population, they have control of their hands, and they can communicate – but they want to communicate as themselves,” Patel said.

The company adds that it is developing filters to change how phrases are expressed and to age a voice, so that it grows with the customer—making a child’s voice become an older child’s voice, for instance.

The company plans to not charge customers during the first year, though later the process will cost $1,499.

While anyone can have their voice banked, priority will be given to those expecting to lose their ability to speak.

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