My favorite donation. Ever.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.27.50 PMThis is a fun one, my friends. Today, I began donating my voice to the Human Voicebank Initiative. For half an hour, I sat in front of my computer saying simple words and phrases, like “Hi” and “Thank you” and “This is important to me.” An online recording studio collected my sounds, thereby adding them to a collection of sounds from thousands of people. The voices will eventually be mixed, customized, and combined for a person who uses a computerized voice as his or her primary form of communication. Think Stephen Hawking – except that the whole point of this project is to provide a greater variety of voice options. So, a sixteen-year-old girl in America doesn’t need to sound exactly like a famous British physicist.

The donation process is easy, flexible, fascinating – and just a little addicting. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download Google Chrome if it isn’t already on your laptop or desktop computer. (The site doesn’t play well with Safari and it isn’t available for mobile devices yet.)
  2. Head over to, hit “record” and start the sign up process. They’ll ask for some personal info and an email address. On a later page, they’ll also ask about your region and how people describe your voice. I don’t think the two pages together took more than five minutes total.
  3. You’re ready to go! Give the tutorial a quick look – it’s available via the menu on the right – and then you can begin.

Donors are encouraged to complete the process in short segments instead of all in one shot, but I found myself wanting to continue after I’d met my quota (ten sentences) for the session. The software leaves the time commitment entirely up to the user, so you can complete as few or as many sentences as you like, depending on your schedule.

Want to know more? Check out the TED Talk by Rupal Patel, the Initiative’s founder or read the FAQs on the TED Blog here.

Happy speaking! Do let me know how it goes so we can geek out over how tech-y and brilliant this project is.