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A new Scottish voice
The latest development in Scottish voice technology 'Stuart' has been unveiled to help young males with communication difficulties express themselves.
The voice technology will allow pupils with additional support needs to express themselves better and is available to schools across Scotland.
Stuart joins 'Heather', the current Scottish synthetic voice available to pupils, so that boys can, for the first time, have a male synthetic voice to use in their school studies.
This innovative voice technology can link in to a package of support which will also allow children and young people with a print disability to access written curricular materials at the same time as their peers in a familiar Scottish accent.
Speaking at Hill of Beath Primary School in Fife where pupils are using the voice technology, Children's Minister Angela Constance, said:
"Seeing young people use the synthetic voice technology today has been an uplifting and informative experience. The launch of 'Stuart' today underlines my commitment to ensure that all of Scotland's children and young people get the most from the learning opportunities available to them.
"The Scottish voice technology enhances pupils' inclusion, participation, access to the curriculum and independence, helping pupils reach their full potential."
Paul Nisbet, Senior Research Fellow at CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh, said:
"We are delighted that the Scottish Government has funded CALL to work with CereProc to create Stuart. Since 2008, Scottish learners have been able to use Heather, the Scottish female voice, and so it's great to have gender equality!
"From today, pupils with visual impairment, dyslexia or reading difficulties will be able to have books and learning materials and exam papers read out by Stuart, and boys with speech difficulties who use communication aids will be able to speak with a high quality Scottish computer voice."
Brooke Smith, nine, attends Cairneyhill Primary School in Fife and uses 'Heather' to communicate. She said:
"I love to chat and tell people my stories. I love using my talking device because I find talking difficult and my talker gives me a voice. I usually decide what to say and my helper puts my words in my talker for me. I used to have a device with an American lady's voice but now I have my new 'Heather' voice I love it because it makes me sound just like a Primary 5 Scottish girl talking the same as my pals."
The Scottish Government provided CALL Scotland, based at the University of Edinburgh, with £27,000 to create 'Heather', a high quality female synthetic Scottish voice as a free download for Scottish schools and colleges. This was launched in April 2008 and since then has been downloaded over 2,000 times. An education authority only needs to download this once in order to provide it on all of their computers.
In 2010/11, the Scottish Government provided CALL Scotland with an additional £27,000 to create a male equivalent to 'Heather' which was developed in consultation with users. 'Stuart' is now available as a free download to the Scottish public sector.
CereProc is an Edinburgh-based organisation specialising in advanced speech synthesis research.
The Scottish Government's innovative Engage for Education site allows users to read blogs from Ministers, post comments and get involved in workshops on issues relating to education.