Project VoiceBank

Brain Transplants

Brain Transplants

by Douglas Black, March 21, 2014

Spoiler Alert!  No trolling here – no blithering negativity about some politically polarized opinions.

My surgery went very, very well.  I cannot praise my Orthopedic Surgery Team enough.  It was truly a Five Star Experience.  From my Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Savage, to the Anesthesiologist, pre-op Nurses and PA’s, and especially the Nursing Team in recovery and during my stay (they really run the outfit) they were all at the top of their game and made me feel like I was at the Spa or a retreat of some kind.

Comfy Towels And All!

Comfy Towels And All!

My previous experience with hospitals involved an awful lot of noise…loud talking all night, incessant beeping, squelching and ignored machines, and an overall rude attitude.  This time it was completely the opposite – quiet, attentive, and genuine friendliness.  And my room even had a nice view that included a bit of Lake Michigan and the edge of Navy Pier!  Did I mention I am gushing over the hospital at Northwestern University?  And hey, it’s even walking distance from home.

My Hospital Room With A View

My Hospital Room With A View

So the pins and needles, the pain and overall discomfort has nearly disappeared completely with the help of a couple donated bone shims and some titanium hardware in my neck.  Instant relief from the pressure to the nerves going down both arms.  And sadly this solution is something I knew of for as many as 8 years, but without insurance the options were basically “fugitaboutit”.  And if insurance HAD been purchased, the surgery would have been deemed a pre-existing condition and therefore not covered.  “Preexisting condition” is no longer in the fine print lexicon of health coverage.  Can I hear a Whoop-whoop!

My voice is fine as well, although there was merely a slight chance that my vocal chords would be disturbed during the procedure.  But that tiny chance was enough to fuel my anxiety engine into overdrive.  So I began a Project I call VoiceBank.

The idea is pretty straight forward.  When a person’s ability to speak deteriorates to a point of incoherence due to throat cancer or Multiple Dystrophy or any sort of injury, the common option for speech is a speech generating device that utters a transistorized monotone words entered in some fashion on their computer.  This is familiar to many of us as the voice of Dr. Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist who has been living with Lou Gehrig s Disease (ALS)  for decades.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

The technology, known as electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), was pioneered by futurist Ray Kurzweil in the mid 1970s.  Kurzweil is now an executive at GOOGLE spearheading Artificial Intelligence and the coming Robopacolypse (not as bad as it sounds).

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil

Now if I were to lose my voice for good, like the late film critic and overall Hero of Chicago Roger Ebert, I would not want my new voice to sound like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or even SIRI.  Not even HAL-9000, although “I am afraid I cannot do that, Dave” is one of my favorite lines.

I would want to be using my own voice.  How?  It is simply a matter of pre-recording common (and even uncommon) words, phrases, numbers, quips, snarky comments, and even cuss word, and loading them into a database.  Like the epherial voice on the subway.

“This..is..Clark and Division.”  “Doors open on the ..Right..at..Clark and Division.”  The more I populate my database with recordings of me saying stuff, the more natural my compu-conversation would sound. And it would be me, even if I could no longer say a damn thing.

So here’s the deal.  I am currently building a file of short phrases I might say in typical conversation.  And many of you know I can be sarcastic, snarky and even a bit of an ass.  So throw some suggestions my way via email of comment on Facebook, or tweet using #VoiceBank hashtag.  Here are a few I have so far…

Yes it IS a nice day, isn’t it?  Who want’s popcorn?  Did you see that guy’s hair?       I am on my way, don’t panic.        Don’t get all uptight.  Did I say I Love You yet today?          Well, I do.

************

Douglas Black

Douglas Black

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s