Students in NYU Steinhardt's Communicative Sciences and Disorders Department are hosting a semester-long voice drive to help individuals with speech loss.
As noted by the National Institutes of Health, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble using their voices. In response to this, NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and its students in the university chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) are hosting a voice drive to help individuals with speech loss reclaim ownership of their voices. The voice drive involves donors submitting recordings of their voices to a “human voicebank” which can later be used by individuals with speech loss.
“As CSD students, a major part of our motivation to pursue speech-language pathology is the desire to help those with impaired communication regain a sense of autonomy and identity in their voices,” said Chloë Thorburn, NYU Steinhardt student and NYU NSSLHA public relations chair. “But at the undergraduate level, there are often few opportunities for unlicensed students to make a direct impact in the lives of those with speech loss. We are hosting a VocaliD voice drive so that anyone in the NYU community, licensed speech pathologist or not, can share the gift of vocal individuality.”
Turning the Recordings into Voices
Recordings from the voicebank are turned into custom digital voices using machine learning and speech blending algorithms. These digital voices are used with assistive communicative devices by individuals with speech loss. The more people that contribute or donate their voices, the more options a person with speechlessness has to choose a voice that better matches their vocal characteristics.
Once a match is made, a donor’s recordings are blended with 2-3 second samples of the recipient’s current voice – or the vocal sounds a recipient is able to make – to create a synthetic voice that maintains the vocal quality and identity of the individual with speech loss.
How to Donate Your Voice
The voice drive has already begun and will continue until Sunday, December 22nd. To participate and donate a voice recording, members of the NYU community can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recordings can be submitted to the voicebank from the comfort of a donor’s home and on their own schedule. Aside from a computer and a head-worn microphone, no additional equipment is needed.
Approximately 3500 sentences are needed to create a complete digital voice. This takes an average of 5-7 hours. Recordings are broken up into short 10-15 minute sessions over the course of several weeks to ease with the time commitment.
The voice drive is being held in collaboration with VocaliD, a company founded by a speech-language pathologist to create custom digital voices.
Students in CSD hosted their first voice drive in spring 2019, with the goal of making yearly drives an ongoing NYU CSD tradition.
About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.