Program Developed At UF Enables Computer To "Emote" In Speech

February 15, 1999

GAINESVILLE --- A recent University of Florida computer engineering graduate student has created a program that gives a computerized voice synthesizer the unusual ability to convey human emotional states including anger, sadness and fear.

D'Arcy Truluck's program is aimed at helping speech-disabled people get across their feelings when using the synthesizer, but it also may help pave the way for computer-generated voices that one day will prove difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

"There's a lot of potential here," said Doug Dankel, an expert in artificial intelligence and UF assistant professor of computer and information science and engineering. Dankel is Truluck's faculty advisor.

Truluck, who graduated with a master's degree in computer and information science and engineering in December, created the program for her master's project. She first had to become expert in a topic that would seem to have little to do with computer engineering: how the voice expresses emotion.

"There are quite a few psychological studies that I looked at that tried to figure out what is in speech that makes you hear certain emotions," she said. Truluck, 28, found many complex vocal variables play a role, including pitch, volume, accent, vowel length and the speed at which the speaker delivers words.

Her program manipulates these and other elements in a commercially available speech synthesizer program, allowing it to project five emotional states: fear, sadness, anger, happiness and neutrality. The program is easy to use: People type in what they want to say, choose how to express it, then press a "translate" button on the screen.

The program conveys some emotions better than others, Truluck's tests showed.

Of 30 randomly selected volunteers who listened to sentences read by the computer, nearly all identified the sad voice. Many also identified the angry and fearful voice, but the volunteers had trouble differentiating the happy voice from the neutral voice, Truluck said.

That's partly because angry and sad voices have distinctive qualities. Angry voices, for example, are characterized by dramatic, rapid, decreases in pitch, Truluck said.

Truluck said she would need to refine and improve the program considerably before it could be marketed. One possibility is to add more emotionally nuanced voices, such as sarcasm or contentment, she said. Another is to give the program the ability to vary multiple parameters in voices, so that speech-disabled people could create personalized voices.

William Brown, professor and chairman of UF's department of communication sciences and disorders, said Truluck's program has promise for the speech-disabled.

"It's of great benefit because people do not want to hear the monotonous type of dialogue that is usually associated with computer synthesized speech," he said. "I think it's quite fascinating."

Dankel said computer-generated voices are likely to become much more common in the future as businesses find more and more applications for them. For example, people one day may converse with computers for help with products or services, he said.

People find traditional computer-synthesized monotones hard to focus on, and Truluck's program could be a building block for more accessible voices, he said.

"When we get into the process of humans and computers communicating with each other, we want to be as natural as possible," Dankel said.
D'Arcy Truluck

Doug Dankel

University of Florida

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to