Speak:Unique on the road: a Scottish island-hopping adventure!

Stornaway harbour

June 2018: The Speak:Unique team has been on the road, recording voices in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

About the project

Speak:Unique, the voicebank research project, aims to create personalised synthetic voices for use in communication aids. Typically, there is a very limited choice of synthetic voices available on a communication aid, and they do not often reflect the age, gender or regional accent of the user. We can create a synthetic voice based on a relatively short recording (approximately 40 mins) of a patient’s voice, and use this to create a personalised synthetic voice.

Purpose of the trips

All of our synthetic voices are built using a series of accent templates, created from a large number of donor voices. These templates allow us to record the patient for a shorter amount of time, and to repair speech impairments in the synthesis process. Currently we have divided Scotland into 10 different accent templates and the purpose of these trips was to record voices for our Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland accent templates.


Through connections with the MS nurses in Orkney and Stornoway, we completed our recordings at the local hospitals over 3 days. Whilst, in Shetland we recorded at the arts centre Mareel over two days. We aimed to capture between 300-400 sentences from each participant, and completed our recordings on iPads. It was a fantastic opportunity to reach people that could not travel to Edinburgh and demonstrate that our technology is applicable outside of a specialised area.

We had an amazing response at all our locations, with 80 donors recorded over the 8 days we were on the road. People were very welcoming, and we enjoyed the many island sights between recordings – although we never managed to spot those elusive orcas in Shetland!

We would like to thank all our volunteers for their time and contribution to the project, and a big thank you to those that helped us organise our trips.


To find out if the team needs your accent, visit


Welcome to Shetland sign

This article was published on: Monday, June 18, 2018