Friday, 24 February 2012

 Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed an exciting new technology that allows people to speak or sing using their hands to control a speech synthesizer.
The gesture-to-voice-synthesizer technology emulates the processes that humans use when they control their own vocal chords. “It’s like playing a musical instrument that plays voice,” explains Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Faculty of Applied Science and director of the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC). “Applications could include new forms of musical expression and aids for people with speaking disabilities.”
Wave of the right hand. Wave of the left hand. (Translation: How they did it)
The team used specially designed gloves equipped with 3-D position sensors to locate the hand in space. The gloves were programmed to associate certain postures with different areas in the audio spectrum: horizontal movement controls the sound of the vowels, vertical movement controls pitch.
The right-hand glove has sensors that detect bending. When a user closes their hand, it creates a consonant sound. Opening the hand produces vowel sounds. The left glove, meanwhile, controls stop sounds like the consonants “B” and “P” with sensors located on the fingers.
“Other possible applications for this discovery are interfaces to make certain tasks easier such as controlling cranes or other heavy machinery,” says Fels.
Co-investigators for this project are UBC School of Music Asst. Prof. Robert Pritchard, and Johnty Wang, a UBC electrical and computer engineering Master’s student. 
At Pritchard’s urgings, there have been seven international performances with musicians playing pieces written specifically for this technology. Learning how to use the gloves, however, is a task in and of itself,.
“It takes about 100 hours for a performer to learn how to speak and use the system,” says Fels.


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