Rupal Patel is a professor at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences. In addition, Patel is chief executive of VocaliD, a Belmont, MA, company that custom-builds voices for the speech-impaired. Patel is dedicated to developing new technologies to assist people with speech difficulties or are unable to speak.
Patel has been the driving force behind other such initiatives such as the Human Voicebank database. Patel, a speech scientist and technologist with over 15 years of clinical and research experience in assistive technology, is considered the hope of assisted speech. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and a speaker for TED.
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Rupal Patel: I am a professor at Northeastern University in the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Computer Science. My research is in speech technology with an emphasis on developing novel technologies to help those who are learning to speak or unable to speak.
I am currently on leave from the University to launch a spin out from my laboratory – VocaliD. At VocaliD, we create custom digital voices for the millions of people who must rely on a computerized device to communicate. Until now, they have relied on a handful of generic sounding voices that do not reflect their age, gender or personality. We can create a custom voice by using just a brief sample of whatever sound they can make and combining it with several hours of recording from a matched speaker in our Human Voicebank database.
I am passionate about the impact of this technology on the lives of those living with voicelessness. Seeing years of work touching the lives of people in a meaningful way is very rewarding.
INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
RP: Most of my time these days is devoted to VocaliD. While it is not a charity, I am fully invested financially and in the time and energy I am devoting to it. My professional life over the past couple decades has drawn me into various mentorship roles within and outside the University. I take great pride in working with my students and colleagues in advancing their careers and in turn the field.
INE: What are your hobbies and interests?
RP: I love to cook and paint/draw. I love to design and sew clothes but haven’t had much for that lately.
INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field.
RP: My research has shown that even those with severe speech disorders are able to control melodic characteristics when they vocalize and that their vocalizations are distinct and individuated. This insight has opened up new lines of research including the underlying discovery that led to VocaliD.
INE: Your rare talent?
RP: To see the glass half full when others may think its half empty.
INE: Your favorite books?
RP: “The Alchemist”; “Twentieth Wife” and “Interpreter of Maladies”
INE: Your favorite quotes?
RP: “My life is my message” – Ghandi;
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Einstein
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato
“I always entertain great hopes” – Robert Frost
INE: Who inspires you the most?
RP: My children – their curiosity and unjaded outlook on life.
INE: Your core value you try to live by?
RP: lifelong learning, honesty, mutual respect for others