Roger Ebert is appearing on Oprah today. Unlike her usual interviews, this one is with someone who can no longer speak for himself. In 2006, Ebert lost his ability to speak after undergoing jaw removal surgery during his battle with thyroid cancer.
Since then, Ebert has continued to work, sharing his opinions on cinema via his blog and Twitter. And when he needs to speak, he relies on his Mac which uses a computerized voice to read out his thoughts as he types. But until recently, he's been limited to the built-in voices on the computer.
Today on Oprah, Ebert will debut something new - his own voice, computerized. He partnered with a company called CereProc to produce a computerized voice that sounds very much like him. How did they do it? CereProc combed through hours of Ebert's audio from DVD commentaries he had done, grabbing words along the way to build out his computerized vocabulary.
The result is that for the first time in four years, Ebert feels like he can speak in his own voice. And he plans to use it in many ways:
What will I use this voice for? I could talk with Chaz [Ebert's wife] and our grandchildren — and it would be me, not Alex. I could do audio for Webcasts, talking under clips from movies I’m describing. I could do radio. I could tell jokes.
It's great to hear you again, Roger. -Dr.FB