Helping Charlie Bird and others with MND speak with their own voice
Over the past few years, we have been spending some time leveraging technology to help people with Motor Neurone Disease to communicate in their own voice. In 2019 we began working with the Big Life Fix team to create a communication app for Roisin that aimed to enable her to communicate with a digital version of her own voice. We are now working with Irish broadcasting veteran, Charlie Bird, to keep his trademark voice. Our aim is to make this technology accessible to as many people as possible.
Follow our journey
Jul 6 2022 - Sustainable Business Impact Awards Finalist
Jan 2022 - Charlie’s Voice Demo on the Late Late Show
Charlie appeared on the Late Late show to promote his ‘Climb with Charlie’ fundraiser and our synthesised Charlie Bird voice made its national debut.
Dec 2021 - Development of Charlie’s Synthetic Voice
We met with Charlie and Claire Bird in the Marino Software offices and explained what we could do. The importance of good quality recordings to the process can't be overstated, but of course in the case of Charlie Bird we had access to a wealth of examples. Claire sourced the best quality audio she could find and supplied it to us.
We worked on finding the pieces of audio that best represented Charlie's voice and cleaned them of all extra sounds (intakes of breath and so on).
Once we had what we believed was a good sample we fed that data into a variety of different machine learning algorithms to generate an artificial Charlie Bird voice. This process involves a lot of iteration and often what might seem like the best audio sample proves to produce bad results.
By the end of the year we had what we thought was a good Charlie Bird voice. This was confirmed when we provided samples. Charlie and Claire were stunned and other people couldn't believe it wasn't something Charlie had recorded.
November 2021 - Contacted by Claire Bird
Charlie Bird noticed some changes to his voice in 2021 and after working with doctors he unfortunately received a diagnosis of MND.
In Charlie's case MND attacked his voice first. His wife Claire was an editor on the Big Life Fix and remembered the episode with Roisin, so she got in touch with Trevor Vaugh the presenter of the show. Trevor contacted us to ask if we thought we could help Charlie.
2021 - Exploration of funding models to bring this technology to more people.
Mar 2020 - Big Life Fix episode featuring the app airs on RTE.
Episode 2 of Big Life fix featured Róisín and some behind the scenes footage of the Marino team in action as we created the app.
2019 - Development of an app for Róisín
We joined RTE’s Big Life Fix team to help Róisín, who has Motor Neurone Disease. We created a solution that will allow her to continue communicating with her loved ones. Read the case study.