When Pat Quinn, who co-founded the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, lost his voice to ALS in 2017, he felt like a vital piece of himself was gone.
But now, thanks to an innovative new program, he's gotten it back.
Developers used recordings of speeches and interviews Quinn made before 2017 to re-create his voice.
"It's because Pat ... gave his voice to the ALS community [that] we're able to give him his voice back," said Oskar Westerdal of Project Revoice, which has just been launched by the ALS Association.
His family and friends were there to listen as he used the program for the first time.
"It’s a strange feeling hearing your first words for the second time," Quinn said using the new technology. "It's like you don’t realize how powerful, how personal and how unique your voice really is until it's taken from you.
"My voice is how I fought back from the disease trying to take it from me. Sorry, I am not going out that easy. I will make sure my voice is heard again."
His loved ones were moved to tears as they heard him speak.
"It's changed my life forever," Quinn said.
Before this, he could only rely on a robotic computer voice to communicate.
"I really didn’t like to hear my old computer voice, so I often avoided getting involved in conversations," he said. "This technology gives me back a vital piece of myself that was missing ... For patients to know that they can still speak in their own voice after ALS takes it away will transform the way people live with this disease."
Project Revoice will work to help people with ALS record their voices so they can continue to use them after losing the ability to speak.
To create the natural-sounding voice, the technology by Canadian company Lyrebird takes two or three hours of recordings — known as "voice banking" — to recreate a high-quality version of someone's voice.
“Our next step is to build this into a program to ensure that people with ALS can maintain that unique part of themselves — their voice – even after they lose the ability to speak," said Brian Frederick, Executive Vice President for Communications at The ALS Association.
Quinn, of New York, co-founded the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. The viral craze raised more than $110 million for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease. The disease robs the body of muscle function.
Athletes, celebrities and many others participated in the challenge, which required a person to dump a bucket of frigid water on their head before calling on other friends to do the same.
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