'NUTONE' is a medical device that restores the ability to speak for those who had lost their voice box for medical reasons, such as laryngeal cancer.
Around the globe, over 300 thousand people lose the ability to speak each year. One of the common methods used to solve this problem is by using a hand-held medical device called 'electrolarynx'. The device consists of a single vibrator that is pressed against the throat and produces vibrations to allow speech.
However, 'electrolarynx' can only produce a monotonic robot-like voice, and have the problem of occupying one hand while using. This causes social issues, such as difficulty in communication while in noisy environments or the robotic voice stands out in the public when it is heard.
To solve this problem, first, we tried producing more complicated vibration waves calculated from actual human speech, such as LPC residual waves. With this method, we succeeded in producing a human-like hoarse voice, but the volume of the voice was very small that bulky audio amp was needed to make it audible.
To produce quality voice efficiently, we turned to the voice production of talking birds, in our case hill mynahs. According to Japanese researchers, hill mynahs have two voice boxes and they mimic human voice by mixing the sound produced by each voice box.
NUTONE was inspired by this unique characteristic of hill mynahs double voice box and utilizes two vibrators to produce quality human voice by mixing the sound produced by each vibrator. To produce user-like voice on NUTONE, 30 or more one-sentence sized voice sample taken before the voice box removal surgery is needed. Then machine learning (GMM) based voice conversion library was run on Azure Virtual Machine to produce the exact vibration pattern to produce user-like voice.
Our team consists of 3 members, Masaki Takeuchi, Jaesol Ahn, Gunhak Lee. We started this program in the summer foundation program at the University of Tokyo, which supports to make a new project for our society. We set our theme to “solve the problem for people with disability”.
Our advisors are Tohru Ifukube, Tokyo Univ. Prof. on welfare engineering, Shinnosuke Takamichi, Tokyo Univ. Asst. on voice synthesis and voice processing, Rumi Ueha, Toyko Univ. Hospital Otolaryngologist. And we have a strong connection with local laryngectomee organization, GINREIKAI, which always provides us with feedback and their opinions about NUTONE.
For more information please visit our website: https://syrinx.community/en/