Stephen Hawking was a renowned physicist and cosmologist who was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease at the age of 21. As a result, he lost his ability to speak and had to rely on a voice synthesizer to communicate. The voice synthesizer became an integral part of his identity and is still recognized as his voice even after his passing. But how does Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer work?

The voice synthesizer that Stephen Hawking used was a customized version of the DECtalk DTC01, which was a popular speech synthesizer in the 1980s. The DECtalk used a form of synthesis called formant synthesis, which involves generating speech by combining different frequencies to create the sound of human speech.

The DECtalk had a limited vocabulary and could only produce a few basic sounds. To overcome this limitation, Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer was programmed with a customized vocabulary of over 3,500 words. The words were selected based on the frequency of their use in Stephen Hawking’s speeches and writings.

The voice synthesizer was controlled by a switch that Stephen Hawking could operate using his cheek muscle. The switch was connected to a computer that was mounted on his wheelchair. The computer would then convert the text that Stephen Hawking typed into speech using the DECtalk voice synthesizer.

The voice that Stephen Hawking used was a male voice with an American accent, which was the default voice of the DECtalk. However, the voice was customized to match Stephen Hawking’s own voice as closely as possible. The pitch and speed of the voice were adjusted to match Stephen Hawking’s natural speaking voice.

In addition to the voice synthesizer, Stephen Hawking’s communication system also included a word prediction software that would suggest words based on the letters that he had already typed. This allowed him to communicate more quickly and efficiently.

In conclusion, Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer was a customized version of the DECtalk DTC01 that was programmed with a customized vocabulary of over 3,500 words. The voice synthesizer used formant synthesis to generate speech and was controlled by a switch that Stephen Hawking could operate using his cheek muscle. The voice was customized to match Stephen Hawking’s own voice as closely as possible, and his communication system also included a word prediction software to improve his efficiency.

2024-04-10

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