In anticipation of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities earlier this month, Apple launched a new film showcasing its Personal Voice accessibility feature, which was introduced earlier this year as part of iOS 17. Personal Voice enables users to create digital versions of their voice to use on calls, supported apps and Apple’s Live Speech tool. For individuals who are at risk of losing their voice permanently, possibly due to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS and vocal cord paralysis, being able to preserve their voice is a significant form of maintaining their identity. The ability to create a digital copy of their voice while they still have their own voice might help allay concerns that they will never sound like themselves again, or that their loved ones will not recognize what they sound like.
All users of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma are able to create a personal voice in the event that it is needed in the future, whether for a temporary or long-term usage. The process for creating a personal voice is relatively straightforward and the resulting voice is satisfying. Here is how one goes about setting up their own Personal Voice, provided that they have upgraded to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, or macOS Sonoma on a Mac with Apple Silicon.
Before initiating the process, it is important to set aside around 30 minutes, as the user will be prompted to record 150 sentences, which might take some time depending on their speaking speed. It is also essential to find a quiet area with minimal background noise and ensure the phone is charged at least 30 percent. The user should also have some water nearby.
To set up Personal Voice on iPhone, the user should go to the Personal Voice menu in the Accessibility > Personal Voice (under Speech) tab within the Settings app. After selecting the “Create A Personal Voice” option, the user will receive instructions and can proceed with the recording process. The layout of the recording process on the user interface is fairly intuitive. Users should speak naturally while reading out the phrases, and the app uses its microphone to analyze the background noise level.
For the recording process, the user can select between “Continuous Recording” or “Stop at each phrase.” Once the recording is complete, Apple mentions that the process may need to complete overnight and advises to charge and lock the iPhone as it generates the Personal Voice. The process also trains neural networks on the device itself, instead of in the cloud. Upon completion of the Personal Voice, the user will receive a notification, and they can see options for sharing the voice across devices, as well as allowing apps to use the voice. The user can also export the recorded clips.
To use the Personal Voice, the user will navigate to the Live Speech option in the accessibility settings, turn it on, choose the created voice under Voices, and test the voice by typing a message into the box.
The author notes that the resulting voice, although slightly robotic at first, does have shades of their personality after a few days, which allows their manager to recognize the voice over the phone. Although the author acknowledges the existence of deepfakes and AI-generated content, they recognize the value and necessity of maintaining an individual’s identity while working within the world of technology. The author is optimistic about Apple’s attempt to achieve this balance with Personal Voice.