York professor informs BBC voice documentary

A York-based professor will present a new BBC documentary which will explore the mysteries of the human voice.

Professor David Howard, an expert in electronic voice synthesis, will take on the challenge of improving professional imitator Rory Bremner’s Tony Blair impression using advanced computer analysis techniques.

The programme will also feature the choristers of York Minster, comedian Jeremy Hardy, tenor Alfie Boe and jazz singer Jackie Dankworth.

Professor Howard, of York University‘s department of electronics, will kick-off the documentary by asking why electronically synthesized speech is easy to understand, but not very natural sounding.

He said: “Today’s electronic speech synthesis is highly intelligible, we can tell what is being said, but it is very non-natural, we do not mistake it as coming from a human being.”

Along the way Professor Howard will meet Pavarobotti – a singing robot that is able to duet with its investor as well as tackle the “thorny issue” of overseas call centres.

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