BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA — If you can, read the following story aloud.
For Niskayuna senior Zoe Lynds, most of her life has been broken up and tied together by language. Now, she’s bringing her passion for language to people who are voiceless with VocaliD, a company that creates a more ‘human’ voice for those who don’t have one due to developmental issues or other health reasons.
As she has grown up, Lynds’ family lived in a handful of places due to General Electric relocating her father, Aaron. Although she was born in the United States, she’d lived in three other countries before coming to live in Niskayuna in 2012.
Her earliest memories are from the family’s home in Belgium.
“My mom [Florence] is French so my sister [Mae] and I grew up speaking French with my mom and English with my dad,” Lynds said.
It wasn’t until the family moved to Florence that Lynds experienced her first linguistic roadblocks.
“At first, it was tough to learn to speak Italian. There are certain rules that the teachers thought I knew already,” Lynds said of her memories of going through a Franco-Italian school, when she lived in Florence for six years.
But these experiences have led her to gain an appreciation for language.
“It’s really a window to look into and understand another culture. That’s why I love it,” Lynds said.
Lynds’ love of language has also turned into a passion for singing. She’s in several choral classes and takes singing lessons whenever she can.
Most recently, her interests in language and singing have led her to VocaliD.
The VocaliD creation process starts with a collection of voices in what’s called The Human Voicebank. People who record their voices and contribute to the voicebank usually donate around 3,500 sentences. These are placed into a database and used to produce a person’s “vocal DNA,” a map to the way someone would pronounce any word.
“It’s really important to me, as a singer, I don’t know what I’d do without it,” Lynds said.
People who may be losing their voice due to throat cancer or other serious health issues can also use the voicebank without having to record 3,500 sentences. They can record three seconds of their voice. Then, algorithms created by VocaliD will select a voice from the voicebank that is most similar to the shorter recording and blend the two together.
Lynds is hoping to organize a voice drive at Niskayuna High School in the coming months, to encourage more people to take the time to record and donate their voices.
“Right now, I’m focused on college applications,” Lynds said.
She’s hoping to stay in the Northeast and study either Mandarin Chinese or Japanese.
“People often ask me what I’m going to do with all these languages,” Lynds said.
While she doesn’t have a definitive career goal in mind, she said that language skills are needed in almost every field.
“It’ll be useful in whatever I chose to do,” Lynds said.
With VocaliD, others are already finding a use for her vocal and lingual passions. The next step is getting others to speak up and ‘donate’ their voices too.