he changed the way most of us perceive popular entertainment and went on to become a teen phenomenon.
Even today he remains an icon invoking nostalgia through his songs and films. But there is a place where Elvis Presley, the uncrowned King of rock 'n' roll, still lives -- inside a computer. So do a lot of singers who are now dead and gone. Ken Lomax from the University of Cambridge, uk , has developed a curious method to reproduce speaking and singing styles of different performers, dead or alive.
Lomax is currently working on applications for his technology, which include a futuristic karaoke machine that will let people sing as their favourite singers and a software that would enable computers to "talk" like a particular movie star ( New Scientist , Vol 157, No 2126).
Lomax calls his invention the "voice morpher". It essentially uses a template of a performer's voice built up from his/her recorded works. The template captures features of their distinctive singing style, such as how they pronounce the words of a song, the tone of their voice and the characteristic timing of certain phrases. So far, Lomax has generated templates of Maria Callas, the celebrated vocalist and, of course, Presley, the King himself.
A karaoke machine using Lomax's morpher would convert the voice of anyone who has stepped up to the microphone into that of Elvis, for instance -- or any other performer for whom a template has been created. The machine would preserve the timing of the karaoke singer but change the pitch and tone to make them sound like Presley.
A spokesperson for Isis Innovations, usa , a company that is helping Lomax to find commercial partners, says that the system currently has two drawbacks -- the time it takes to generate the template and the processing power needed to blend the voices in real time.
However, the first hurdle, the time taken to generate a template, is not critical to real-time performance, because they are created in advance. And while the prototype synthesisers do take time to convert the voices of the karaoke singers, commercial versions will achieve this conversion simultaneously.
Electronic giants such as Sony, Sharp and even ibm -- American computer giant -- are evaluating Lomax's system with intentions of creating commercial products. ibm is thinking of using this technology to make their computers sound more human and user-friendly.
According to Isis Innovations, a karaoke machine using the voice morpher could make anyone sound more or less like a professional singer. "A song could be half yours and half Elvis's," said the company spokesperson, "or it could also be 10 per cent you and 90 per cent Him."