CereProc: gives voice to emotion

Tuesday 4th December 2012
MIT's MACK MediaLab Autonomous Conversational Kiosk and the CREST logo http://www.media.mit.edu/gnl/projects/kiosk/

Text to speech technology expert CereProc - as a key member of the global interdisciplinary CreST network - is collaborating in a pioneering research project and touring exhibition that explores the principles for conversational emotion and confronts challenges involved in artificial voices.

A  CereProc team - collaborating with fellow scientists and speech practitioners in the arts as part of the global interdisciplinary Creative Speech and Technology (CreST) network - is to participate in a pioneering research study conceived by the network’s Voice Expressivity and Emotion Group (VEEG) to explore challenges and practices in synthetic voice production and emotional conversation. 

Alongside world industry specialists, CereProc’s experts will engage in the wider project  focusing its work on the design and build of the central experimental chat bot - named the Conversational Kiosk installation - before showcasing the research as part of a touring exhibition that aims to heighten public engagement with computer speech research and encourage uptake of speech technology in a number of applications.

Led by (left) Dr Alistair Edwards, University of York and (right) Dr ChristopherNewell, University of Hull, the project Articulate: The Art and Science of Synthetic Speech - supported by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council  and Arts Council England - explores the nature of emotional conversation using the interactive, chat bot powered by CereProc’s text to speech technology, and features exhibits created by scientists and artists using state of the art speech technologies.

Alongside text to speech technology and synthetic speech expertise delivered by CereProc, the CreST network blended multiple disciplines involving specialists from Augmentative and Alternative communication (AAC) for disabled users, public voice-announcements and telephone self-service systems, musical composition, human-computer interaction (HCI) and artificial intelligence (AI) - to reach its research objectives.

Explaining the fundamental importance of this exhibition, Dr. Edwards said: "Speech-synthesis technology allows those who have lost their voice through illness or disability to communicate verbally. However, there is an urgent need for this type of technology to be more widely available and for it to be more reliable and personal.”

Chris Pidcock, Chief Voice engineer at CereProc explains: “We’re very proud to be involved in theCreST network, and to have our emotional text to speech voices applied to such an innovative and valuable project. Being given the opportunity to collaborate so closely with such a dedicated group of creative individuals has been - and continues to be - an absolute privilege.

“With the tour kicking off on early December, we’re looking forward to exhibiting the interactive chatbot, engaging with a wide variety of audiences across the country in the coming months, and ultimately raise awareness of synthetic speech and its wide range of capabilities for the future.”

Dr. Edwards added: “By providing more public engagement with computer speech research using the creative and performing arts, CreST aims to help people gain more understanding of the benefits and limitations of this type of technology."

Commenced in March 2011 as part of a 2 year collaborative partnership between members of the CreST network, the forthcoming touring exhibition - Yorkshire and Humberside until January 26th 2013 - is a demonstration of the culmination of works developed within the network and will offer special activities for the public supported by an interactive website.f

The CreST VEEG group exhibition Articulate: The Art and Science of Synthetic Speech will visit various locations in York, Sheffield, Hull on December 3, 4 and 5 respectively, before being given a temporary residence at the Woodend Gallery, The Crescent in Scarborough between January 22- 26, 2013.


Meet Suzette the chatbot. Her creator Bruce Wilcox  (left) won the 2010 Loebner Award because he successfully convinced a judge into believing his chatbot was actually a human!

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