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Syrinx

Syrinx is a wearable device that restores your voice from the past. With this device, people who had to remove their voice box due to cancer can speak with their past voice again.

What it does

Syrinx is a wearable device that restores your voice from the past. This device vibrates your throat so that you can speak in your voice by moving your mouth. With this device, people who removed their voice box due to cancer can speak with their voice again.


Your inspiration

Using one’s voice is one of the most simple and speedy way of communication, but over 300,000 people lose their voice every year due to reasons such as voice cancer. When I first saw one of the patients in a video in youtube talk using a special device called EL(electrolarynx), I was surprised that the voice was so different. After watching the video I contacted a laryngectomee NGO in tokyo and found out that the patients were very unsatisfied with the current device because it occupies one hand when using and because of it’s unnatural voice. I started this project to enable them to enjoy speaking with voice again by solving this problem.


How it works

There is 3 main functions in Syrinx that can be used to help patients who had lost their voice in everyday life. (1) Generates natural voice. Making speech is divided into 2 parts. First, air from the lung vibrates the vocal cord to make a sound source. Then this sound source passes through the mouth and the lip area and becomes a syllable. However, patients who had removed the voice cord due to cancer can’t make a sound source. So Syrinx works as a external sound source by vibrating the throat area. And Syrinx uses complicated vibration patterns generated using AI to generate natural voice. (2) Hands-free and stress-free design. Current EL device is a cylinder shaped device that has to be pressed against one’s throat when speaking which cause discomfort. Syrinx is a wearable device that works hands-free. (3) Stylish design that makes user want to use. The design purpose was to make it doesn’t stand out in the public, but customizable to the user’s taste.


Design process

We made our first prototype using bone conduction vibrator and throat mic to make it compact and unnoticeable when used in public. And we used GMM machine learning model which is often used in voice conversion to generate our vibration patterns. But when we tested the device on the actual patients, the problem was that the voice made by the device was so small that he couldn’t hear himself speak. So for the next prototype we used different type of larger and stronger vibrators to make the device louder, but when we tested the device on the patient, we were told that the sound is much better but the device looks awkward. To solve this problem we invited a designer in our team, and redesigned the whole device so that the design makes the users want to use. When we tested this new device on the patients most of them were satisfied and were able to receive positive feedback.


How it is different

We developed Syrinx as a hands-free wearable device, which differs from the existing device first in its design. Existing device must be pressed against user’s neck with a hand when speaking.This cause major discomfort when user tries to speak while doing two handed tasks such as driving, eating, typing and talking on the phone. The second major difference between Syrinx and the existing device is in the complexity of the vibration pattern. Both of the device works as a external sound source by vibrating the user’s throat, but the existing device can only generate simple uniform square waves. In the other hand, Syrinx uses more complex vibration pattern generated from AI using real voices. Because of this complexity Syrinx had to use additional vibrator which makes sounds in higher frequency band, where the existing uses only one.


Future plans

Among the feedback, we are currently working on the reduction of the noise from the vibration of the device. The goal is to improve the overall quality of the voice generated from the device by testing the different type of vibrators and by improving the sound source generating algorithm. And current device works well in limited use case among the patients, but there are other reasons for voice loss apart from cancer, such vocal cord paralysis. So we will further develop our device to respond to wider use cases, and ultimately commercialize. We will make a world where people with voice loss can speak freely in everyday life.


Awards

Microsoft ImagineCup 2020 World Final, TOP3


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