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If you plan to use recorded (mechanical or electronic) sound with your robot you may want to consider any of the several text-to-speech Internet sites, such as the Bell Labs TTS (textto-speech) project at http://www.bell-labs.com/projects/tts/. At this Web site you type in the text you want to synthesize, and a sound file (.wav, .au, or .aiff format) is returned to you. Save the file and use it to produce a sound sample with a cassette tape or recording chip.
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OF VODERS AND VOCODERS AND ROBOTS
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First, let s cover a little bit of the history and science behind the speech synthesizer. One of the earliest pioneers of the science of speech synthesis was Homer Dudley who, as a Bell Labs researcher during the 1930s and early 1940s, developed parametric methods for reproducing the human vocal tract. Among Dudley s accomplishments was the Voder, a mechanical speech-making machine that was controlled by a human operator. To make a word or sentence, the operator who trained for about a year to become proficient on the machine played the Voder using a small pianolike keyboard and foot pedals. The Voder was popular among the audiences who saw it in newsreel films as well as at the World s Fair. Though it had very little commercial value, the Voder was perhaps the world s first true speech synthesizer.
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From the Voder came the Vocoder, an electronic device that literally took sound apart and put it back together again. The Vocoder combined noise and periodic pulses to produce a completely synthesized version of the human voice tract all without human intervention. One of the aims of the Vocoder was to change the waveform of speech that was sent through the phone lines. Bell Labs hoped that it could not only reduce the bandwidth required to transmit speech but improve intelligibility as well. The Vocoder proved a huge success, and all-digital (and much improved) variations of it still exist. They are used in most all telephone systems, including cellular phones. The Vocoder was also popular in radio, movies, and television as a way to produce eerie-sounding voices. Because the Voder-Vocoder model is based on the parameters of speech (pitch, modulation, noise, etc.) these parameters could be changed to electronically alter the sound of a voice. In operation, a human would speak normally into a microphone, which was connected to a Vocoder. The controls on the Vocoder were intentionally mal-adjusted to produce various effects such as monotones, warbles, and vibratos. Vocoder effects were used in the movie Colossus: The Forbin Project, in the 1970s TV series Battlestar Galactica, for background voice effects in Star Wars, and in many others. A later version of a Bell Labs Vocoder synthesizer was programmed in the early 1960s to sing a song, Bicycle Built for Two. Novelist Arthur C. Clarke saw the demonstration of the singing computer and used it in his book 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you re familiar with the book or movie, you know that this is the song HAL the computer sings as he is being deactivated by astronaut Dave Bowman. Vocoders are available today in both hardware and software form. Rock bands have long used analog vocoders (notice the lower case v to denote a generic Vocoder-like device) to create the singing guitar effect. You ll find vocoders of all sizes, shapes, and prices at most any well-stocked music store. All-software vocoders are available for use with Windows, DOS, and Macintosh. For example, the Prosoniq Orange Vocoder for use on Macs and PCs is designed to digitally manipulate any sound input, including mixing it with other tones and sounds to create unusual composite effects. Where does all this lead us For robotics, you can use vocoders to record voice samples and manipulate those voice samples so they don t sound like you, Uncle Bob, or Betty from next door (or whoever you used to record the voices). Instead, you can make your robot sound like the Colossus computer, a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, a small child, a gnat, rustling leaves . . . even a robot! The vocoder-processed voice samples can be stored using a cassette tape, a hacked digital recording toy, or a digital voice chip, such as the ISD series. These techniques were described earlier in this chapter. Under the control of bumper switches or a microprocessor or computer, your robot can then play back the appropriate vocoder-enriched voice clip.
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