Meet the man who lent Stephen Hawking his voice

A man and a voice who will be missed.
Image: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Stephen Hawking’s computer-generated voice is so iconic that it’s trademarked — The filmmakers behind The Theory of Everything had to get Hawking’s personal permission to use the voice in his biopic.

But that voice has an interesting origin story of its own.

Back in the ’80s, when Hawking was first exploring text-to-speech communication options after he lost the power of speech, a pioneer in computer-generated speech algorithms was working at MIT on that very thing. His name was Dennis Klatt.

As Wired uncovered, Klatt’s work was incorporated into one of the first devices that translated speech into text: the DECtalk. The company that made the speech synthesizer for Hawking’s very first computer used the voice Klatt had recorded for computer synthesis. The voice was called ‘Perfect Paul,’ and it was based on recordings of Klatt himself. 

In essence, Klatt lent his voice to the program that would become known the world over as the voice of Stephen Hawking.

Hawking passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76. The renowned cosmologist lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for 55 years. His death has prompted an outpouring of love, support, and admiration for his work and his inspirational outlook on life. It’s also prompted reflection on how he managed to have such an enormous impact on science and the world, when his primary mode of communication for the last four decades was a nerve sensor in his cheek that allowed him to type, and a text-to-speech computer. 

Though Hawking had only had the voice for a short time, it quickly became his own. According to Wired, when the company that produced the synthesizer offered Hawking an upgrade in 1988, he refused it. Even recently, as Intel worked on software upgrades for Hawking over the last decade, they searched through the dusty archives of a long-since-acquired company so they could use the original Klatt-recorded voice, at Hawking’s request.

Klatt was an American engineer who passed away in 1989, just a year after Hawking insisted on keeping ‘Perfect Paul’ as his own. He was a member of MIT’s Speech Communication Group, and according to his obituary, had a special interest in applying his research in computational linguistics to assist people with disabilities.

Hawking has been known to defend and champion his voice. During a 2014 meeting with the Queen, she jokingly asked the British Hawking “have you still got that American voice?” Hawking, like the sass machine that he is, replied “Yes, it is copyrighted actually.”

Hawking doesn’t actually consider his voice fully “American.” In a section on his website entitled “The Computer,” Hawking explains his voice technology:

“I use a separate hardware synthesizer, made by Speech Plus,” he writes. “It is the best I have heard, although it gives me an accent that has been described variously as Scandinavian, American or Scottish.”

It’s an accent, and a voice, that will be missed.

You can find Hawking’s last lecture which he gave in Japan earlier this month on his website. It’s called ‘The Beginning of Time.’

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/14/stephen-hawking-voice-origin-story/

Ellen presenting Jimmy Kimmel with a surprise for his son is super emotional

Ellen DeGeneres often surprises the guests she has on her show. But it’s not often the surprise is as heartwarming as this one.

On Tuesday, Jimmy Kimmel appeared on The Ellen Show to chat about hosting the upcoming Oscars.

At one point the subject turned to his son, Billy, who was born with a genetic heart disease he’s previously had to undergo surgery for. Kimmel wanted to thank DeGeneres for helping to raise $1 million for Children’s Hospital LA in Billy’s honour.

Turns out that wasn’t all she’d done, though.

“We called our friends at Children’s Hospital LA, including Billy’s surgeon, and we have named one of the rooms of the heart institute floor in honour of Billy,” DeGeneres tells Kimmel in the clip above.

Kimmel’s emotional reaction says it all.

DeGeneres later tweeted to encourage more people to donate.

And Kimmel and Billy thanked her once again.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/28/jimmy-kimmel-emotional-ellen-son/

Jimmy Kimmel’s baby son had a second heart surgery

Jimmy Kimmel will be taking a break this week to spend time with his family following his son Billy’s successful second heart surgery. 

According to ABC News, the late night host will have the help of various guest hosts filling in for him this week so he can be with his family during the 7-month-old’s recovery process. 

Chris Pratt took over the show on Monday, and for the rest of the week, Tracee Ellis Ross, Neil Patrick Harris, and Melissa McCarthy will take turns making themselves comfy in Kimmel’s seat. 

Kimmel and his son’s story have been one of the unexpected voices speaking out against the proposed health care bill and the national conversation about health care. In May, Kimmel made the announcement that his newborn son was born with heart disease and since then, he has used his show to advocate against the various Republican health care bills and to raise awareness by analyzing and discussing the bill on his show. 

This will be the second time this year Kimmel has stepped away from his hosting gigs due to family obligations. Billy’s scheduled surgery was initially intended to take place in October, but was postponed due to a cold. Nonetheless, Shaquille O’Neal, Dave Grohl, Channing Tatum, and Jennifer Lawrence stepped up to the plate for him that week and we got some hilarious clips out of that—so this week should be just as fun. 

We are all wishing Billy a very speedy recovery. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/05/jimmy-kimmel-son-second-surgery/

Gordon Ramsay is in for some unsavory comments for dissing Indian snack

Image: GETTY IMAGES

Ace chef and television presenter Gordon Ramsay, who’s known for his sharp tongue, was left with a bad taste in the mouth when he tried to humor an Indian Twitter user.

The bloke, Rameez, tweeted to Ramsay asking him to ‘rate’ his food photo. Just like many users do to invite supposedly hilarious insults from the celebrity chef.

But what ensued in this case was, umm, unsavory.

First, the user’s tweet.

Medu Vada is a popular breakfast dish in southern and western India.

It consists of spiced lentil batter fried in doughnut-shaped dumplings, and is served with yellow sambar (lentil curry) and white coconut chutney (made of coconut pulp ground with other ingredients such as tamarind and green chilies.)

Then, came Ramsay’s acerbic reply.

The dig was possibly made at the utensil on which the dish was served.

But it rubbed Indians the wrong way. Angry reactions surfaced in no time.

Ouch! That escalated fast.

WATCH: This spinach leaf is actually a tiny, beating human heart

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/07/gordon-ramsay-insult-indian-snack-twitter-outrage/