Island radio gives digital voice to the people as Gaeilge

Island radio gives digital voice to the people as Gaeilge

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A community radio station on an island off the south-west coast is to trial EU-funded technology to allow it broadcast digitally-created Irish dialects in English and as Gaeilge.

Bere Island Community Radio, which last March started broadcasting to islanders and people living in the greater Beara Peninsula, has been chosen to test the technology in the next couple of months.

The community radio will trial the world’s first commercially available synthesised Irish voice, which was created by CereProc, a technology company based in Scotland.

Bere Island and similar communities in Portugal and Romania are benefiting from the cutting-edge technology, which was funded through the EU-Grassroot Wavelengths Initiative.

Similar synthesised voices will be used in the other two countries, in their national language and local dialects.

Helen Riddle, who works for the Bere Island Projects Group, which is heavily involved in the radio station, said they are very excited about the development.

She said the as Gaeilge component would come in particularly useful as they plan to open a community radio on Irish-speaking Cape Clear island soon. Ms Riddle said the idea of digitally creating accents would allow small radio stations to broadcast when they don’t have volunteer presenters.

“For instance, the technology will allow me to text something to the radio station and the computer programme will then generate it into a human voice which can broadcast the information,” she said.

She said the technology could be used to convert text news/events items provided by locals and GAA reports into voice broadcasts.

“At the moment we have three volunteer presenters who present programmes between 11am and 2pm each Sunday,” Ms Riddle said. “We also have a researcher working part-time for us.”

The radio station, which broadcasts from the island’s heritage centre, collects stories from the island’s older inhabitants about what it was like growing up there as a child.

Chief scientific officer at CereProc, Matthew Aylett, said the first voice digitally created for use by the islanders is based on a regional Co Donegal accent. The company has 20 languages in its database, which are available for use on multiple platforms, from Microsoft to Android and iOS.

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