British theoretical physics legend Stephen Hawking might just get an upgrade to his robotic voice. That's if Intel manages to perform the arduous task set forth by Hawking.
Intel has wanted to upgrade the now-out-of-production speech-synthesis chip, which allows Hawking to speak in his characteristic voice, for some time now. Their initial attempts at upgrading it were turned down by Hawking. Intel's Justin Rattner revealed the development at an innovation awards ceremony hosted by the company in Dublin. Hawking was presented with the Innovator's Courage award, while Rattner was given the 21st Century Industrial Innovation Award.
Hawking's unique way of speaking is a big part of his celebrity image (Image source: articles.boston.com)
Hawking himself was not present at the ceremony but spoke through a video. If indeed he had been there, we would have had the full story story. Rattner's version goes that Intel had developed an “upgrade” to the voice-synthesis system, which modified the voice of the author of the renowned A Brief History Of Time. According to Rattner, the system currently used is based on an “ancient voice-synthesis chip” and Hawking still uses it daily. Hawking objected to the proposed upgrade, as his robotic voice has become a large part of his public image and brand.
This sent Intel into a tizzy, and Rattner assigned some of the company's best guys to a special project to emulate the chip, that doesn't exist anymore. Of course, if things go fine, we could bear hearing Hawking's characteristic voice in high-definition. And perhaps the preservation of brand Hawking, means we could end up seeing the physicist on The Big Bang Theory, after all.