Adaptation is the name of the game with MND.
Richard Burton in “The Robe” – by 20th Century Fox (eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“One blink ordering”. It’s a rather interesting concept, don’t you think? I jokingly mentioned this to my wife the other day when I was ordering some items on Amazon (you know, essential stuff like “Cooking for dogs” books). They make it so easy to order, and they even have one click ordering.
“That was too easy, it’s a good thing that it wasn’t one blink ordering. Who knows what I might buy!”
Well, to MND sufferers, it’s no joke and could be a lifeline. I’ll come back to this during my post.
Firstly, to keep you glued to the screen, there is a video this week!! You’ll have to wait to the end though……
I wanted to talk today about problems with my voice. MND has made it slurry, slower, and it requires more effort. I say it’s husky and mysterious!
When I was first diagnosed in June 2014, I had heard of voice banking but didn’t know much about it. One of the team you are introduced to when you are diagnosed with this disease is a speech therapist. On my first meeting, I asked about voice banking and was told it was very difficult.
WELL! That is like a red rag to a bull!
I quickly searched around, but there was no real straight forward guidance from the MNDA or UK Healthcare practitioners. However, it was pretty simple to find out about some software that could help.
Yes, I am a total tech head, but it really was not that hard. I have written an Idiot’s Guide. Click below to download.
You know the sort of thing, Exactly how you do it type of document. With this guide you have everything you need, I promise, or your money back!! (its free so tough luck claiming).
I guess when faced with this nasty disease, people’s brains are fired with emotions and all sorts of things, and complications like banking your voice may be at the back of your mind.
I delayed a few months, by which time my voice had changed, but it was still ok and I completed it on-line in October 2014.
You may not need it now, but once done its done. I found the whole thing rather relaxing and it gave me utter focus for 2 weeks. I didn’t rush it. I just disappeared to my man cabin in the garden. It was rather like a pirate radio station. I imagined myself as Kenny Everett. Now he was a funny man.
All I needed was a laptop with broadband connectivity, a head mounted microphone and a quiet place for two weeks. No software to install. Basically you read 1600 short sentences, and a synthesised voice is produced. The software effectively creates all the phonics needed from these sentences. Actually, a lot of the phrases were from the Wizard of Oz film. Goodbye Yellow brick road and all that! Now that is a great Elton John Album. I remember owning the record, gatefold cover, double album. Mega cool.
MY ADVICE IS DO NOT DELAY.
Once your voice is banked, you can then use the synthesised voice in pretty much any tech hardware that supports it. Windows, for example, but for me it is iPad and iPhone.
I have my voice on my iPad with another bit of software called Predictable. You don’t have to use this, but it is one of the best on the market (in my opinion that is – I am not paid for anything, guys!)
I attach a little video for your entertainment at the end.
So I now have a voice I can use from my iPad or iPhone. All the time I can use my hands, I could use this to communicate. Its pretty darn good, and you can tell it’s me. In fact, when I recorded my voice it had slowed a fair bit. However, with the software I can increase the rate, which is amazing.
How will I use the voice further into the future? Well, as time progresses, I may lose use of my arms, and my actual voice. Currently the last resort for MND suffers is using what is known as “eye gaze” technology. Most MND sufferers retain the ability to move their eyes. Eye gaze enables you to operate technology by staring at a screen with the software detecting your eye movements.
With such technology, communication can be re-established, and it can even be linked with your banked voice.
In a world where technology is cheap, iPads are a few hundred pounds, the eye gaze technology is a crazy price, around £10,000. This is ridiculous as it connects direct to a PC or laptop which costs pennies. However, more companies are coming onto the market, and I would hope this cost will drop dramatically pretty soon.
Of course after I banked, one just had to try to get it to say rude words! Predictable is a bit annoying in that it used to stop one saying most of them. However, they have just enabled a new option – “enable profan dictionary”! I most certainly didn’t want to lose my wide-ranging use of the English language!
I got a nice surprise the other week Predictable was updated on my iPad, and it had some great new additions. You can now actually laugh in the tool!!!
I was hoping for a Dr Evil type voice (woooohuhuhuuhuhuhuhuhuhuh).
So, how am I now? Well I sound a bit drunk much of the time! The other week, there was a bit of trouble in our Village, with a man being rather aggressive to a resident in the street whilst we were out for a walk with our dogs. My wife and I were walking by and you could see that the police had been called.
As we walked back to our house, a police car came by, screeched to halt, and asked me where the trouble was and I said “Down there” in a, yes you guessed it, triple Vodka accent. His response was
“Are you involved in it mate!!!!”
I wouldn’t have minded, but I barely drink.
The cheek, and it’s “Kind Sir” not “mate” officer! Don’t you know Downton Abbey is back on.
Anyway, how you are perceived is often dictated by your voice.
My approach, if I suspect that I am being looked down on, is to amaze with some genius facts, talk slowly and slightly patronisingly. And then of course laugh like Dr Evil!!!
Actually I am known for telling a very funny joke, which I won’t repeat here, but the punch line is a garbled phrase “Country and Western”, which if said slurry sounds like something rude from Preston.
Preston North End FC – 1888 – See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This is Preston North End. Admirably, the first football team in the UK to do the football cup double. No real connection with voice banking! But I didn’t want you to think I don’t like Preston.
So back to one blink ordering…..here’s me having just ordered 300 Parsnips and 420 toilet rolls from Sainsbury’s!
That’s all folks. My next post will be a surprise post! Perhaps if you are all good blog readers, I might do a bonus post next week.
I forgot, here is that little video for your entertainment.