UPDATED: Watch video of Ebert using his new voice after the jump.
The following post went live on 3/1/10, and it was written by Peter Hall
Ah, science, how wonderful you are. When I learned that illustrious film critic Roger Ebert would never be able to use his natural speaking voice again, I, like many others, wondered if he'd take to using text-to-speech converter not unlike what famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking uses to communication. Turns out Ebert has indeed been working toward a speech aid, only his artificial voice will have a distinct advantage over the more robotic tones most associate with the technology; it speaks in his actual voice.
Ebert has an interesting post up at his own blog detailing how he came to deal with his new-found mute-hood, and, as with all of Ebert's candid posts about his battle with cancer, it's a bittersweet read. In it he outlines a few experiments with using standard issue software (his wife liked the British variant he now uses around the house) before one day stumbling across CereProc, a Scottish-based firm on the cutting-edge of synthesized voice technology. Ebert then opened a dialog with the company in the hope that they could develop a custom voice synthesizer pieced together from past recordings of Ebert's voice.
They indeed could, but the process wasn't quite so straight forward. As with all things Ebert, it's best to hear it in his own words, but in short his love for movies is actually what saved his voice. CereProc was able to take the raw audio from several of his DVD commentary tracks to assemble an Ebert-only cadence that the critic will be debuting on the Oprah Winfrey show this week, where he'll be sharing his Oscar predictions in his own voice for the first time in years.
If that doesn't put a smile on your face for the day, I don't know what will. Be sure to tune in to Oprah on Tuesday to hear what Ebert sounds like these days, as well as his predictions. And if you're curious to hear the Schwarzenegger-synthesized voice that got him interested in the technology in the first place, check out CereProc's demo of it right here.