VAG Freiburg to use high-tech from Heidelberg!

The Freiburger transport service Freiburger Verkehrs AG (VAG) will equip their busses and trams with an own announcement voice. We have digitized the voice and are delivering the text-to-speech systems. These will improve the announcements’ quality, emphasize the VAG’s innovative image and save money on speaker and studio costs. The new voice will already go live in October and can then be heard throughout the entire VAG route network.

Regional colorings in pronunciation have long since become a trademark in many regions. Transport companies also rely on familiar voices, which in their case come from loudspeakers. These announcements are what passengers can identify with - and thus also with the transportation company. The Freiburger transport company decided to choose a colleague for the VAG’s voice. In the in-house voice casting, Michaela Albrecht came out on top. Her voice now sounds through all loudspeakers, authentically and pleasant despite its digitization. Smaller regional rail companies, such as the Schweizerische Südostbahn, are also increasingly taking advantage of individualized text-to-speech systems.

Creating such a voice is a highly qualified process: extensive recordings are made in a sound studio by the so-called "voice talent", i.e. the person whose voice is to be digitized, accompanied by sound engineers as well as computer linguists. A script created specifically for the customer's application is used as a basis. The more comprehensive, individual and elaborate the preparation, the better the final pronunciation quality of the digital voice. The recordings are checked, corrected if necessary, and analyzed immediately and after completion. With elaborate algorithms as well as correction and smoothing processes, the audio material is edited and digitized. Then, we see how much quality has already been achieved before the voice output is edited and optimized again. At the end of the process chain, an individual synthetic voice is created that comes very close to the natural voice. Ideally, it is no longer possible to distinguish whether the heard text was recorded or dynamically generated on the computer.

In southern Baden, we had to deal with place and street names from Alemannic and French. Here, we benefited from our experience with multilingualism, which we had gained in other projects.

VAG board members Oliver Benz and Stephan Bartosch are very pleased with the result: "Ms. Albrecht's voice with its slight tinge of the Baden dialect comes across very well. And we can now react quickly and flexibly to changed announcements with this voice."

About the VAG

With five light rail lines and 19 bus lines, VAG weaves a close-knit local transport network for Freiburg. The next stop is usually right nearby. The light rail lines run in tight intervals and form the backbone of urban mobility. The bus lines are optimally linked to the most important transfer points and to the surrounding area. More than 80 million - statistically determined - passengers use this attractive service every year. On average, that's 220,000 passengers a day who relieve the environment of exhaust fumes and traffic noise!

Published on 11/7/2018

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