The Creative Speech Technology Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Scarborough School of Arts and New Media

Abstract

People are increasingly expected in every-day like to interact with synthetic voices. These encounters are often not very satisfactory. The suggestion is that a major reason for this is that these voices do not sound 'right'. Synthetic voices have improved greatly in recent years in that they sound more human-like. Yet there remain two (conflicting) problems: On the one hand they are still not entirely human-like; most people spot the fact that they are listening to synthesizer within a few words.At the same time, even if it were possible to re-create a perfectly human-sounding voice, it would convey the wrong associations for what are computer-generated utterances. The computer does not have all of the other attributes of a person, such as intelligence, a sense of humour, empathy etc. Put another way, a computer voice should sound like a computer voice. The question is: how should that sound?The objective of this network is to bring together people who know about (human) voices and how to use and manipulate them - from an artistic background - with technicians who know how to generate synthetic voices. By establishing and developing a language through which these disparate people can communicate, it will be possible to create new voices for specific purposes. The focus of the work will be on creating artistically inspired artefacts which will challenge the potentials of synthetic voice production. Those artefacts will also be used to disseminate the results of the work - to expose it to members of the public. This will share the results of the research as well as allowing the final evaluation of the voices to be given to the people who matter - those who have to put up with this kind of interaction on a daily basis.

Publications

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Alistair Edwards (Co-Author) (2012) Communication Matters. Vol 26 No 3. in Augmentative and Alternative Communication

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Christopher Newell (Co-Author) (2013) Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice

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Christopher Newell (Editor) (2013) Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology in Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology

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Moore R (2013) Your Virtual Butler

 
Description The project found that:

(1) Interdiscipinary collaborative methodologies have yet to be fully articulated in the context of an extreme interdisciplinary collaboration. Trial and error and personal experiences are still the principal driver of sucess (2) A 'mixed economy' of artists and scientists are able to engage with a practice based project with strict production and public engagement outcomes (see website for 12 exhibits and 5 new musical compositions produced collaboratively). (3) New insights in the creative, technological and public engagement sphere could be elicited in an interdisciplinary network. (4) Interdisciplinary ontologies in the area of artifcial speech emerege naturally through the process of collaboration (5) Public Engagement is a significant driver for methods of production and evaluation.
Exploitation Route Development of new exhibits and artefacts for the purposes of public engagement and artistic exploration. New contributions to citizen engagement in arts for AAC users. Development of new methodologies for extreme interdisciplinary colaboration. Development of new synthetic speech systems and products that incorporate insights from both the arts and sciences communities. Further opportunities to explore the production of bespoke 'musical intruments' and tools for expressive artificial speech.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

URL http://crestnetwork.org.uk/
 
Description Discussions are underway with several of our commercial partners, Toby Churchill Ltd, Toshiba Research Europe Ltd and Cereproc to collaborate on R&D projects. Two RCUK research funding proposals are in progress both of which include R&D investment (in kind) from our industry partners. Several technologies were developed at a prototype and playful level for the roadshow. One that allowed users to personalise and artificial voice proved particularly popular among AAC users and may be developed commercially. The mechanisms for commercial exploitation are in place through the university enterprise office. In addition we have a number of network members with significant expertise in this area however it is too early to know which of several opportunities will be further developed. The speech technology academic discipline is lively and active but may have benefitted from the approach taken within CreST. Many of the current intractable problems of naturalness (in speech) and realism are familiar problems to the arts disciplines (particularly the performing arts). Conversely the areas of speech pedagogy and training and the deprecated area of elocution (predominantly arts domains) can benefit from the application of scientific methodologies. CreST encouraged these approaches and the consequent benefits to academic health. The cultural component of the CreST Network was as significant as the scientific and technical. Many of the cultural exhibits produced were specifically designed to enrich the quality of life for persons with communication difficulties. The concert for artificial and human voices, featured on Russia 1 http://www.1tv.ru/news/other/225843 although a deliberately esoteric offering it enabled interdisciplinary researchers, the industry and the general public to enrich their understanding of the computer generated voice and the human voice. CreST was construed as a creative economy project with an objective to nurture the emergence of IP and Copyright in projects that emerged from the network. The notion of embedding much of the output of CreST in the wider social domain among users and policy makers was an attempt to positions some of the work within the broader framework of the knowledge economy . CreST membership included seven industrial partners and two NHS professional practitioners. In addition the mailing list developed during the duration of the project included a number of public, private and voluntary organisations. These individuals and organisations were exposed to the research practice of a diverse set of academic individuals and groups consequently we would posit that in terms of research knowledge and skills the network facilitated transfer and exchange. At this stage it is too early to tell whether this will go ahead. A significant focus of CreST was only improving the health and well-being of persons with speech communication difficulties. To that end the network membership included health professionals and users and our audiences for the roadshow included a large proportion of persons with communication difficulties. While much of the work of individual network members is in the direct facilitation of speech communication collaborative outcomes were often in the area of participation and empowerment enabling disadvantaged users to achieve enhanced well being by greater levels of participation and engagement. The CreST Network was very effective in developing public engagement with the research themes at the core of the network's remit. Please see the website for details of the articulate roadshow, comedy night and the concert for human and artificial voices http://crestnetwork.org.uk/index.php . Our reach and membership has been principally in the UK however we had some members from the USA and other European countries. All our meetings were broadcast live on http://www.livestream.com/crestnetwork . We produced both a film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jDSpk5F2qo&feature=youtu.be and radio documentary https://soundcloud.com/crestnetwork (please note the last two items have yet to be made public). The approach adopted by the Crest Network included a number of innovative methodologies and as an extreme interdisciplinary network it was driven by innovative cross disciplinary approaches. By no means 'a talking shop' and with collaborators from arts, science, industry and users the focus of the network was on making work to display to both the academic community, the general public and a more specialised public made up of AAC users. These exhibits or artefacts were produced in individual interdisciplinary groups with strict time and budgetary constraints. The resulting road-show toured to 4 venues in the North of England and was covered extensively by local, national and international media see http://crestnetwork.org.uk/page/articulate-media Much of the equipment developed in order to demonstrate the systems to the wider public was bespoke including digital and tangible interfaces, games, and sensors . Beneficiaries: General public, researchers, artists, disabled people
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description CreST Network Roadshow
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 20904105 
Organisation Arts Council England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2012 
End 03/2013
 
Description CreST Network Roadshow
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 20904105 
Organisation Arts Council England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2012 
End 03/2013
 
Description Speech Synthesis in Extreme Environments 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Addressing the design challenges inherent in a synthesis system for a person with cerebral palsy, who is unable to speak, performing stand-up comedy. This collaboration develops my contribution to interdisciplinary frameworks for the convergence of arts and science expertises in the design of augmentative and alternative communication devices.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Training actors for corpus production for speech synthesis systems 
Organisation Toshiba Research Europe Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Providing a framework to constrain actors' emotional choices when generating audio recordings for corpus production. An opportunity to develop partnerships in arts and science leading to process and product innovations in the field of emotional speech synthesis. Implementation stage complete (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21827924). Paper in preparation.
Start Year 2012
 
Description 'Voice by Choice' - 5-minute film 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Short Film: http://vimeo.com/46831064 (1,254 online plays). Main House screening at City Screen York. Roadshow screenings in Hull, Sheffield and Scarborough. Extracts shown on national and international TV.



As a result of a variety of disabilities, some people are unable to speak using their bodies alone. Some of these people use voice enabled augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices sometimes called VOCA's. These consist of some form of input interface and generate synthetic speech. The user's choice of voices is very limited, usually constrained to selecting one of a small set of installed 'voices'. The result is that when a number of users get together it can be difficult to know who is speaking at any one time, particularly if there are a number of people using the same voice.



Research: In general, manufacturers of VOCA's do not develop their own computer voices but may choose to integrate some more advanced third party voices into their systems. This decision is based primarily on technical and commercial considerations. Up until now AAC users, who have the most personal engagement with this technology, have had little involvement in this process. The CreST Network would like to encourage AAC users and computer voice developers to work together.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://vimeo.com/46831064
 
Description Articulate: The Art and Science of Synthetic Speech (Roadshow) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact A series of exhibits displaying work from the Network were mounted in public spaces. Details http://crestnetwork.org.uk.



A number of Network members were involved at different times. Listed below are the main ones.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://crestnetwork.org.uk
 
Description BBC Health Webpage: Speech dating - using a computer voice to find your partner 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20587917.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20587917
 
Description BBC Radio Five Live interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with Christopher Newell.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BBC Radio Sheffield feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviews with Network members at the Articulate Roadshow in Sheffield.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BBC TV Look North feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Television piece on the Network and the Articulate Roadshow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BBC World Service 'Click' interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Alistair Edwards was interviewed in this programme regarding the Network and particularly the Articulate Roadshow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BBC World Service Digital Planet Facebook Page 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact https://www.facebook.com/groups/4287320286/.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.facebook.com/groups/4287320286/
 
Description CereProc Brings TTS to the Global CreST Network Tour 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact http://www.speechtechmag.com/Articles/News/Industry-News/CereProc-Brings-TTS-to-the-Global-CreST-Network-Tour--86499.aspx.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.speechtechmag.com/Articles/News/Industry-News/CereProc-Brings-TTS-to-the-Global-CreST-Net...
 
Description CereProc: gives voice to emotion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact http://www.computescotland.com/cereproc-gives-voice-to-emotion-5653.php.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.computescotland.com/cereproc-gives-voice-to-emotion-5653.php
 
Description Computers that Talk and Listen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact University of York Public Lecture series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Concert for artificial and human voice 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Six concert pieces involving performances by live singers and artificial voices. See crestnetwork.org.uk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description CreST Documentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Video documenting the Network http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jDSpk5F2qo.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jDSpk5F2qo
 
Description Creative speech technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Conference presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Human and synthetic voice concert gives Scarborough gallery 'world first' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact http://www.beautifulnorthyorkshire.com/2013/01/human-and-synthetic-voice-concert-gives.html.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.beautifulnorthyorkshire.com/2013/01/human-and-synthetic-voice-concert-gives.html
 
Description Invitation to contribute to World Voice Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invitation to contribute elements of the CreST Roadshow to World Voice Day celebrated at the University of York 16/04/2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Panel discussion on emotion and expressivity in synthetic speech 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Panel discussion on emotion and expressivity in synthetic speech during SpeechTEK Conference 2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Panel discussion on emotion and expressivity in synthetic speech 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Panel discussion on emotion and expressivity in synthetic speech during Speechtek conference, 2013, NYC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Performance as a part of the York Festival of Ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Performance of music from the concert for Human and Artificial Voices, as a part of the York Festival of Ideas, with Mezzo Soprano Lisa Coates, June 24, York.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentation at NYC Electroacoustic Music Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of 2 works for the concert for human and artificial voices.



http://www.harvestworks.org/apr-4-articulate-speech-technology-in-the-arts-and-science/.

Composers Kevin Jones (U.S.) and Robert MacKay (U.K.) will present an evening of music and discussion about their work with synthetic speech technology as a part of the CreST Network (Creative Speech Technology) at the University of York. CreST is an international collaboration of science and arts practitioners investigating speech synthesis, interactive speech systems and the development of a common language among people in science and the arts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.harvestworks.org/apr-4-articulate-speech-technology-in-the-arts-and-science/
 
Description Presentation at the AHRC Digital Transformations Moot 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation of one exhibit from the CreST Roadshow at the AHRC Digital Transformations Moot.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Presentation on AI and Poetry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Invitation to demonstrate aspects of the poetry developed as part of the CreST Network at the symposium 'AI and Poetry', part of the Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour Convention 03-05/04/2013. Exeter University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Progress & prospects in spoken language processing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Presentation at the Institute of Acoustics Speech & Hearing AGM, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Sounds of CreST The Voice and Technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact On-line audio documentary of the Network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Speaking and Listening Machines: Siri and beyond 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The Voice Symposium, London Science Museum's Dana Centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Speed dates with computer voices 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact http://www.rocketnews.com/2012/12/speed-dates-with-computer-voices/.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.rocketnews.com/2012/12/speed-dates-with-computer-voices/
 
Description Spoken Language Interaction with 'Intelligent' Systems: How we are doing, and what do we need to do next? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Presentation at the EUCogII Workshop on Challenges for Artificial Cognitive Systems II. Oxford.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Spoken language processing: where do we go from here? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Seminar at the University of Lincoln.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Spoken language processing: where do we go from here? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Seminar at the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Spoken language processing: where do we go from here? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Seminar at Science and Technology Research Institute, University of Hertfordshire.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description TV Broadcast on Russia 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Coverage of the Network, concentrating on the Concert for Artificial and Human Voice



Various contributors in addition to those below



http://www.1tv.ru/news/other/225843


.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.1tv.ru/news/other/225843
 
Description Talking with Machines 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The Voice (public engagement event) Wellcome Collection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Toby Churchill Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invitation to present findings from the CreST Network to industry professionals at Toby Churchill Ltd 24/04/2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Video recordings of Network meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact All meetings were recorded on video are are available: http://www.livestream.com/crestnetwork.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://www.livestream.com/crestnetwork