Mighty Morphin' Voice Rangers

NOW YOU, TOO, CAN SOUND like a muscle-bound hulk--even if you are a woman. You can also record a song and give yourself perfect pitch, no matter how off-key your voice originally sounded. Or, you can compress voice recordings thirtyfold or more for compact storage and fast transmission. You'll just need ToolVox, a new package of personal-computer software from Voxware Inc. in Skillman, N.J. "I have never seen anything that can do the things they can do," says William I. Strauss, president of Forward Concepts Co., a multimedia market-research company.

Voxware's secret is that the software is specifically tuned to work only on voices, distinguishing their components, such as the harmonics of vowel sounds or sibilant sounds ("s" and "z"). The result is a logical model, not the usual jumble of frequencies, according to Research Vice-President J. Gerard Aguilar, who has been developing the tools since 1991. Once a voice has been disassembled, he adds, Voxware can be employed to "morph" it or to play it back at high speed without turning a drawl into a squeak. Strauss says voice quality remains very good even at a 30-to-1 compression rate--vs. just 4-to-1 for the most commonly used compression standard. Shipments to software developers and publishers began this month.

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