Roger Ebert's Voice
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert lost his voice four years ago, after surgery for thyroid cancer went wrong. It appeared that he would spend the rest of his life communicating through a computer keyboard and a generic synthesized voice. Unhappy with his new voice, in 2009 Ebert was searching online and came across a Scottish technology firm, Cereproc, that was working on speech synthesis. At Ebert's urging, Cereproc agreed to take on the job of customizing a computer's output to recreate Ebert's own voice. At first the plan was to use audio from Ebert's past television broadcasts, but it proved too difficult to isolate Ebert's voice from the background sounds and interruptions. Eventually Ebert remembered there were several hours of recordings he had made for DVD commentaries. Using these clean tracks as source material, Cereproc was able to get a beta version of Ebert's own voice working. This week Roger Ebert used his new voice for the first time on the Oprah Winfrey Show.