First Week at VocaliD

VocaliD, Inc. holds a very modern place in the business world. There is some amount of trouble capturing the operation in a succinct way, because paramount to VocaliD’s service to the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) community is the data gathered from voice donors. The term “Socially-Oriented Company” has been getting thrown around more and more recently, and it is the most apt description of VocaliD’s nature, taking donated voices and using data from them to create ones for others in need.

The office is located on the third floor of the old firehouse in downtown Belmont, with a Pilates studio directly below and an Italian restaurant at street level. I love the location. There are plenty of places to grab good food for lunch, and the Fitchburg line station is a short walk away. On cooler mornings I bike in, which takes under a half hour.

I’ve been working alongside Rupal, the founder of the company, who is very easy to work with and a great supervisor. Most of my time this first week has been spent doing what I fully expected to be doing: examining, annotating, and editing speech data, in order to prepare it for the morphing algorithm VocaliD uses to create voices. However, we also launched a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo this week, and a lot of work went into designing and revising the campaign. I’ve also been writing portions of the various outreach emails that go out as part of the campaign and VocaliD’s business as usual. Going forward, tasks like these will continue to be part of my responsibilities this summer, so it looks like this internship will be getting me some interesting communications experience, from marketing to end users to forging relationships with other AAC companies.

If this week has been any indication of how the rest of the summer will be, then interning at VocaliD will be an incredible way of satisfying my WOW goals. I have the opportunity to work in a field that bridges signal processing and phonetics, two things I am familiar with from my two majors; I’m getting exposed to audio programming and code writing in a vocational setting, helping me to gain an understanding of programming and its place in computational linguistics; and VocaliD’s work presents a major, tangible service to those whose voices literally aren’t heard, and so I’m helping to eliminate inequalities faced daily by the AAC community.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the logo and how well designed and appropriate it is, in addition to being tasteful and in line with current graphic design sensibilities.

the VocaliD company logo
The VocaliD company logo

At first glance, it’s a “V”, standing for all things vocal. Upon closer looking, the overall shape of the V is remarkably similar to that of human vocal folds. The graphic also consists visually of a small V inside a larger one, representing the way VocaliD blends just a few seconds of vocalization from a recipient along with several hours of donor speech to create the final product. The way in which these are overlaid, with alternating horizontal lines, is also very similar to the way waveforms of human vowels look, with secondary peaks and troughs layered inside.

waveform from a stereo recording of a young girl saying "thrown"
A waveform from a stereo recording of a young girl.

The logo has a whole lot of symbolism and information packed into it. It was partially designed by the founder herself, which is a great example of the interdisciplinary atmosphere of the whole team. This will, after all, be quite an interdisciplinary summer.

-David Stiefel ’16

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