The co-founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge has been given his voice back using voice recreation technology.
Pat Quinn, 34, from New York was using a computerised voice with eye-gazing technology to speak due to his progressive motor-neurone disease (MND) until March, when the team from Project Revoice gave him the technology to use his own voice again.
MND is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
When these motor neurons die, the brain’s ability to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may lose the ability to move, speak and finally to breathe.
The team at Project Revoice used voice-banking technology from Canadian company Lyrebird with support from the US ALS Foundation to convert hours of interviews and speeches Quinn gave as part of the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge to help recreate his voice.
Project Revoice linked this tech with eye reader assistive technology to enable Quinn to deliver words in his original, unique voice, rather than a “machine” voice.
Quinn, whose 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge raised over 100 million dollars for MND-related causes, said of the technology: “This takes speech tech to a whole new level and means everything to how I communicate.
“I really didn’t like to hear my old computer voice, so I often avoided getting involved in conversations.
“This technology gives me back a vital piece of myself that was missing. After hearing my voice through this new technology, I was blown away!
“For patients to know that they can still speak in their own voice after ALS takes it away will transform the way people live with this disease.”
Project Revoice, launched on Thursday, aims to encourage all those with voice degenerative diseases to record and preserve their voices.
Founders of the project, Oskar Westerdal and Rene Schultz, want to make their service available for free to the entire MND community by the end of 2018.