Tipping Point: Woman has voice reconstructed thanks to ITV show appearance

·2 min read
Helen Whitelaw
Helen Whitelaw can speak again in her own voice, using a computer aid, thanks to clips from the TV show

A Scottish woman who lost her speech after developing motor neurone disease (MND) has had it reconstructed using sounds from her appearance on the ITV gameshow Tipping Point.

Helen Whitelaw appeared on the show in 2019, winning almost £3,000.

She was diagnosed with MND the following year, after which her speech rapidly deteriorated.

But engineers took the audio of the 76-year-old's TV appearance and used it to build her voice into a computer aid.

Ms Whitelaw of Glasgow has thanked them for "giving me back my voice".

Tipping Point, which first aired in 2012, finds contestants answering general knowledge questions in order to win counters which they use on a large coin pusher machine.

Ben Shephard
Ben Shephard hosts ITV's Tipping Point, which launched in 2012

"The diagnosis was devastating for the family," Ms Whitelaw told STV News. "I wanted people to know what I was saying and I did not want to sound like a machine.

"I am extremely grateful to everyone concerned for giving me back my voice."

Her daughter Gillian Scott said it was "just the best" to be able to hear her mother's voice again.

"I think we thought all hope was maybe lost, and it's not been," she told Tipping Point host Ben Shephard on Good Morning Britain on Thursday.

Ms Whitelaw added: "It is wonderful being able to talk to people and sound normal and not like a machine.

"My frustration has vanished and I can now have satisfactory conversations with everyone."

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Alice Smith, from the Edinburgh-based company Speak Unique, which builds synthetic voices for people, said they were "apprehensive" at first about using the technology.

"We were sort of joking that she'd definitely be able to say, 'Drop zone four', as that was such a catchphrase during the show," she told STV News.

"But we were so pleased that we did manage to get it to work with her appearance on Tipping Point."

What is MND?

Motor neurone disease is a group of diseases that affect the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that tell your muscles what to do.

Also known as ALS, it causes muscle weakness and stiffness.

Eventually people with the disease are unable to move, talk, swallow and finally, breathe.

There is no cure and the exact causes are unclear - it's been variously linked to genes, exposure to heavy metals and agricultural pollution.

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