In a beautiful demonstration of how modern technology can affect people’s lives, a woman uses her appearance on a game show to reconstruct her voice after she lost control of motor neurone disease (MND). Helen Whitelaw, a 76-year-old woman from Glasgow, developed MND and quickly lost her voice as soon as she diagnosed with degenerative neurological disorder. Unable to speak without the aid of a machine, Mrs. Whitelaw hated the robotic voice that she now likes and wanted for her alternative.
“The diagnosis was devastating for my whole family,” he told STV News. “I wanted people to know what I was saying and I didn’t want to sound like an instrument.” The family reached out to a voice reconstruction company, Spike Unique – but now, MS Whitelaw’s voice was far from over.
Luckily, in 2019, he entered the ITV gameshow Tipping Point, where he won nearly £3,000. The show had fun clips with its host, Ben Shepherd, and it could be perfect for voice reconstruction. This is not common practice, so the company was terrified. In a statement to STV, Alice Smith, CEO of Speaker Unique, said, “We were concerned about how we might be able to use this.”
“We were just kidding that he must be able to say, ‘Drop Zone Four’, as it was captured during the show, but we’re so glad we made it work with his presence at the tipping point.” Ms Whitelaw’s voice recreated from the video recording, which is unlike any other textbook in her life. Her new voice is almost different from a human voice, and she claims that the company “returned her voice”.
“It’s great to be able to talk to people and not be like the usual machine,” said Ms Whitelaw after arriving in Good Morning Britain to reunite with Tipping Point host Ben Shepard, to show her new voice and to hear her story. “My frustration is over and I can now have a satisfying conversation with everyone.” Motor neurone disease is a debilitating, neurodegenerative condition that affects 2.6 women per 100,000 in the United States. Legendary scientist Professor Stephen Hawking brought this condition to the attention of the people and it became the most well known in the last few decades.
In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media, with people throwing a bucket of ice water over their heads to raise money and awareness for MND. While this may seem trivial, the global challenge has raised more than $135 million globally and has contributed to a treatment array to try to help people with MND with ongoing clinical trials, including antibody treatment.