Roger Ebert Closed this year’s TED conference

Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the final talk at this year's TED conference. Image via CNN.

At the beginning of the month, TED held its annual conference. This years conference ended with an emotionally wrenching talk from film and culture critic Roger Ebert, his wife, and two friends.

Ebert lost the ability to speak four years ago after much of his lower jaw had to be surgically removed in his battle against cancer.

But at this years conference, Ebert appeared center stage with a newly designed facial prosthesis and “Alex”, a computer voice from his MacBook. With his wife and two friends, Ebert shared his story of his illness, which turned the man who is well known for his running mouth into a man who was unable to have a conventional conversation.

In his speech, the critic likened the use of computer voice to that of HAL 9000, from the film “2001: A Space Odysseey,” but pointed out that there has been immense progress in technology used to simulate voices. A company in Scotland has been able to create a computer voice that sounds like Ebert before he lost the ability to speak. The voice was generated through processing many hours of tapes of Ebert talking.

“Alex,” however, is not this Ebert-sounding computer voice that Ebert spoke with at the conference; it is, instead, a rather impersonal computer generated voice. Still, Ebert told his captive audience that “the ultimate test of a computer voice is whether it can tell a joke like Henny Youngman.” Ebert then proceeded to tell a joke.

We wish we could find footage of “Alex” and the joke in action, but were unable to. We can tell you the joke ended with “You’re ugly.”

Read the CNN article on Ebert’s appearance and find out what the joke was here

Related:
Galant, Richard. “Ebert Closes TED Conference with Emotional Talk – and a Laugh.” Online posting. CNN. CNN Cable News Network, 4 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2011.

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1 comment so far

  1. Soul Surfer on

    This is wonderful blog. I love it.


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