If you find yourself watching Apple’s new short film, The Lost Voice, you may initially be puzzled by this captivating visual story of a young girl and a large furry forest creature. However, stay tuned until the end of this Taika Waititi-directed clip and you will not only understand its relevance to International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Apple technology, but you may also shed a tear or two. Waititi, known for directing Jojo Rabbit and Thor: Love and Thunder, is also involved in an upcoming Star Wars movie.
Released on November 30, the video follows a lost little girl who encounters a gentle giant and embarks on a quest to find her “lost voice.” Their journey takes them across oceans, mountains, and deserts, where they encounter various creatures like living rocks, comical owls, and frogs. The revelation at the end, set in the little girl’s room with her wheelchair-bound grandfather reading to her, is incredibly moving and poignant.
The Practical and Moving Use of Technology
In May of this year, Apple introduced Live Speech and Personal Voice, which were later added to the iPhone with iOS 17. Personal Voice, developed in collaboration with Team Gleason, enables users to train their devices to speak in their own voice. This technology is designed to assist individuals with degenerative diseases like ALS in preserving their speech capabilities.
Unlike many of Apple’s other features, Personal Voice requires users to spend approximately 20 minutes “training” the feature by repeating 150 different phrases. The resulting recreation of their voice can then be used by the device to speak on their behalf. While the feature may sound slightly robotic, its use in The Lost Voice is undeniably impactful.
Saving a Voice
Dr. Tristram Ingham, a professor at the University of Otago, Wellington, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, trained his Personal Voice on his iPhone. The heartwarming interaction at the end of the film, featuring Ingham in his wheelchair and the phone speaking in his voice, effectively highlights the impact of Apple’s assistive technologies.
Apple’s Personal Voice is an entirely local technology, ensuring that the voice training and building process occurs on the user’s device and not in the cloud. Users can choose to back up their Personal Voice to iCloud for safekeeping and sharing across up to three devices.
For those interested, Apple has also turned The Lost Voice into an eBook available on Apple Books.