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Ebert Speaks

After losing his voice to cancer, new software is allowing Roger Ebert to "speak" through a computer by taking sounds of his own voice from his DVD commentary on 'Casablanca' and 'Citizen Kane'. "Nearly four years after a battle with thyroid cancer robbed him of the ability to speak, iconic film critic Roger Ebert sounded like his former self Friday during a taping of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' the show's producer said. It was no medical miracle, but rather a demonstration of new software using audio recordings of Ebert to create a synthetic voice that sounds like his own. CereProc, a company based in Edinburgh, Scotland, created the voice for him using mostly audio of Ebert's DVD commentaries on 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca.' The company's technology allows Ebert to sound more natural than other 'text to speech' software — even allowing for a range of emotions. 'Roger has many years of experience in broadcasting,' said Matthew Aylett, chief technical officer for CereProc. 'Obviously we couldn't record him but he did have a lot of audio material we could use to build his voice.' The company has used the technology — which turns text typed by the user into sound — to build voices of other famous people, including former President George W. Bush on a satirical Web site. But this is the first time the company has produced a synthetic voice that sounds like the old voice of the person using it, Aylett said."
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