The 2016 Speech Industry Luminaries: Lars-Erik Larsson
THE VOICE CUSTOMIZER
CEO, Acapela Group
While assistive technologies exist for children with sight, speech, and cognitive disabilities, the text-to-speech (TTS) components in these solutions often use adult voices, which obviously sound unnatural. Fortunately, Lars-Erik Larsson, CEO of Acapela Group, has made it possible for these children to use TTS technologies with more personalized voices.
The challenge for Larsson and Acapela was to find, coach, and record just the right children to capture the essence and unique vocal characteristics of their young voices. Creating the first two voices took more than 2,500 hours, but the effort has paid off. Today, Acapela’s children’s TTS voices are used daily by thousands of youngsters throughout the world.
Acapela’s children’s voices are available in U.S., U.K., and Australian English; German; Norwegian; Swedish; French; and bilingual American English/Spanish.
“We are very proud of our children’s voices that enable kids around the world to finally express their thoughts, needs, and desires with a voice they like and find comfortable,” Larsson said in a statement. “We will continue to add new children’s voices to our portfolio, and so help change the way kids with disabilities can benefit from voice technologies.”
But disabled children aren’t the only ones benefiting from Larsson’s unique vision. Acapela recently released the My-Own-Voice service so people with degenerative conditions such as ALS, aphasia, dysarthria, or apraxia can capture and preserve their own voices in TTS format before losing them. This enables users to keep speaking with their own voices rather than standard anonymous synthetic voices. Acapela has already run more than 80 voice recordings with users about to lose their voices.
Larsson’s speech background dates back to 1999 when he joined Lernout & Hauspie as a senior director. In 2002, he was appointed CEO of Babel-Infovox, which later became Acapela Sweden. He also served as chief operations officer at Acapela Sweden and was named vice president of sales for the Acapela Group in 2004. He became CEO of the Acapela Group in December 2007.