The Loh Down On Science

Actress Zoe Lister speaks for you (sort of)

Cipolla and others, U of Cambridge, 2013.

Always wanted to be a talking head?  Soon you may be able to!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Cambridge University engineers have created a talking head. That is, they've created a customizable digital avatar that converts text into speech, complete with expressions.

The engineers say the idea’s been tried before.  But results weren’t realistic, and needed a huge program to run.

For their program, they worked with actress Zoe Lister.  They digitally recorded her speaking roughly six-thousand sentences.  Software detected speech subtleties and combined expressions. Think head tilts with mouth shapes.

They programmed in six basic emotions:  Happy, Sad, Tender, Angry, Afraid, and Neutral.  Users can adjust each emotion as well as voice pitch, speed, and depth.  They can input text, and the software pulls the needed sounds and expressions from its databank. 

Result?  Zoe can say, “Hi, call me!”  Nervously, happily, nervously happily, or endless other ways.

The program is small enough to run on phones or tablets, and its framework would let people replace the Zoe image with their own. 

However happily sad or tenderly angry it is.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

 

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