Roger Ebert, Voiceless For Years, Speaks Again on Oprah

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Just your daily Techland memo about Oprah here.


Roger Ebert, whose current inability to speak or eat made big waves online in a recent Esquire profile, appeared on Oprah Tuesday afternoon. Speaking through a computer. And, for the first time in public, he was able to demonstrate not just your standard robotic voice but a voice that’s based on old recordings of his actual voice.

Roger Ebert, sounding like Roger Ebert again. For the first time in years. Here’s the clip (clearly the first time his wife has heard the new computer voicing):

A Scottish company called CereProc has analyzed several of Ebert’s DVD commentary tracks and come up with a digital rendering for any word that he could ever want to speak. Tuesday afternoon, the voiceless Ebert made his Oscar predictions, in his own voice once again. (bummer for Avatar fans, he predicted that Hurt Locker will win best picture)

Consider my mind blown.

I think it’s a pretty remarkable thing, that technology converges to give a man a voice who no longer had one. And now Ebert is already speculating about the possibilities of this breakthrough: Perhaps web reviews that use footage of the film, and then his automated voice, spelling out his analysis? Podcasts or radio?

But once again, I must say: I find this simply awe-inspiring. A man who was near death, who has not spoken in years, is being given his voice – and quite possibly, his video career – back. It’s the same thought that I had with Rush Limbaugh’s cochlear implant: These are amazing times we’re living in. We can rebuild broken bodies – and lift ailing spirits.

Now it’s time to put out this news via Twitter, and to search for early clips on YouTube, before I can get home and catch up with the full episode via DVR. 2010 indeed. Another Oprah clip below:

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