This morning on the way to work at BeyondCurious, I heard a spot on NPR that brought me to tears. Samantha Grimaldo, a seventeen year old who has been unable to speak since birth, was given a chance to hear what her voice sounds like. Still in development, this amazing technology developed by Rupal Patel, analyzes the sounds Samantha is able to make and extrapolates that to the voice she would have if she were able to talk.
Currently, Samantha uses a simulated voice called "Heather," a mature woman's voice that embarrasses the self-conscious teen. But with this new technology, Samantha will be able to use a voice simulator that actually simulates her young, optimistic voice.
The simulated voice that Samantha heard was developed from samples that Samantha gave to researchers when she was much younger, so the voice she heard was of a younger version of herself. Still, I can't imagine how she and her mother felt when they heard the crisp, high-pitched child's voice for the first time. Samantha summed it up by saying that the voice sounded "happy."
There are a lot of reasons why I'm excited about working in the digital innovation space. Not all of them are as heartbreakingly beautiful as this one. But the thing this story encapsulates for me is the power of technology to empower people and transform their lives. Being in an industry that can literally give voice to people that are voiceless hits me at my core.
We have been hearing a lot lately about the ways that next generation technologies are going to empower people in ways that were unimaginable before. But this story is just one very specific way that technology is transforming lives. Beautiful.