Dr Felix Schaeffler, Lecturer in Speech and Hearing Sciences and a member of the Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Centre, was awarded an Innovation Fellowship for The Voice Distillery – voice quality tagging for the creative industries.

The innovative technology developed throughout the study has potential to contribute to both high-impact scientific publications (once IP protection is secured) as well as the establishment of a sustainable business.

"The Fellowship award allowed for the time and resources to submit a Scottish Enterprise SMART: Scotland Feasibility Study Application for a novel research-intensive business idea, based on previous discussions with the on-campus East Lothian Business Gateway team and business consultancy firm Planys."

Funding streams like SMART Scotland require consideration of both technological and commercial aspects of a project, and the fellowship funded consultation of external experts and helped shaping the application outside Dr Schaeffler's area of expertise." 

SMART Scotland also requires match funding from other sources.  The Fellowship meant that he was able to gather a team of experts and discuss the business idea and its potential.  "Subsequently we successfully raised private investment.  The Fellowship also led me to initiate contacts with VC investors/business angels and financial experts, as a first step towards funding the company beyond the feasibility study."

About voice tagging

The human voice shows an extraordinary amount of meaningful variability and an individual’s voice quality and timbre causes a range of reactions including personality attributions. The underlying characteristics and specific use of a voice for a certain purpose can trigger a variety of responses in a listener, and the importance of voice choice, for example in commercials, has long been recognised.

Vocal Profile Analysis’ (VPA) is a phonetically motivated perceptual voice analysis scheme developed and refined by researchers from Edinburgh University and QMU since the 1980’s. VPA is the most comprehensive system for voice quality description to date. The current project will investigate the potential uses of VPA for the creative industries, focusing on automatic VPA and voice quality tagging for voice sample evaluation.