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Bere Island to pilot ‘Siri’ as Gaeilge

Thursday, 25th July, 2019 1:11pm

The first ever Irish-speaking ‘Siri’ could soon be heard over the airwaves, as it is set to launch on a radio station in Cork.

A tech company has launched the first commercially-available Irish-speaking synthetic language, which is to be piloted on community radio on Bere Island off West Cork. CereProc, a company based in Edinburgh, has created the voice thanks to a European project which sees a number of countries collaborate to develop digital voices in other languages.

CereProc’s text-to-speech technology will be used by a community radio station on Bere Island when the station cannot be staffed by presenters, enabling the community to maintain a local radio station with relevant news supporting both English with an Irish accent and the Irish language, as well as running ads and reading out dedications on-air.

The technology is the first commercially-available Irish-speaking digital language platform and is available to buy now for business and commercial use.

Speaking about the launch, CereProc co-founder Dr Matthew Aylett said: “For us, it’s key that technology doesn’t abandon the diversity of language in favour of homogeneity. Using technology to support that and produce voices that reflect both the languages and accent of the communities that may want to use speech output is very important.

“The typical experience we’ve had traditionally with digital languages is for the generic one or two voices, or just the main languages, but people speak English in many different ways, and there are many lesser-resourced languages in the world which are very important to the communities that use them.

“For community radio, you need to produce a lot of content. The idea was to give them technology which would help them do that.”

CereProc has been producing text-to-speech voices for nearly 15 years, and its systems are currently used for the likes of announcements at Gatwick Airport and reading out exam papers for dyslexic Scottish students.

“The idea is to make that technology available to communities who want to have their own voices, and can then use it to produce something really special, idiosyncratic and that represents them, rather than this global, one-size-fits-all technology that we’ve become used to.

“I don’t want technology to be a cause of lesser resourced languages like Irish being lost, and I’d like to give people the tools they need to support what they want to do with their languages,” Dr Aylett said.

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