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  1. ITV Report

How Suffolk grandfather with motor neurone disease has 'banked' his voice

Bob Milton and Laura Wilkes using the voice banking software. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A grandfather from Suffolk who has motor neurone disease has spoken about the pioneering technology which has allowed him to "bank" his voice.

Bob Milton, who's 82 and from Bury St Edmunds, was diagnosed with the condition in March.

It affects the nerves and the brain and gets worse over time, often leaving patients unable to move or speak without help.

That help to speak normally comes from a computer - and many will think of Professor Stephen Hawking - but now there's a way of making that synthetic voice more personal.

It's known as voice banking. It involves reciting hundreds of phrases before the software converts all the sounds into your synthetic voice.

  • Watch the full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.

Mr Milton said it was a "no-brainer" to bank his voice and that it's been part of his determination to remain positive.

"I'm very fortunate that I have a positive attitude in life. I enjoy life. I've got a lot of hobbies and friends.

"I'm never short of something to do so my mind doesn't dwell on it. The last words the neurologist said to me were 'enjoy life' and I do."

– Bob Milton
Bob with his wife and grandson. Credit: Bob Milton

The Motor Neurone Disease Association says around 500 patients have banked their voices in the last few years with the help of volunteers.

At the West Suffolk Hospital speech and language therapists work together with volunteers who know have trained in the voice banking software.

Laura Wilkes is the hospital trust's librarian - but she's also started working with MND patients as part of her role.

"All my patients ask whether they will sound like Stephen Hawking. Actually the software is so clever that you can have a slightly more robotic voice if you wish because it gives better intonation. But most of my patients are from Suffolk - they have their Suffolk accent - and they opt to keep that."

– Laura Wilkes, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust