Virginia Rep. Wexton uses AI-generated voice as medical condition impacts speech

Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton debuted what she called her "new/old AI voice" Wednesday. 

"You may think your ears are deceiving you right now. I assure you they are not," Wexton said in a video posted to social media.

Last year, Wexton announced that she had been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), which she described as "Parkinson’s disease on steroids," adding that the condition has affected the volume and clarity of her speech.

As a result, for the past few months, she’s used a text-to-speech app to communicate, including from the House floor. But now, after creating an artificial intelligence-generated model of her voice using a collection of her previous public speeches, in a way, Wexton’s own voice is back.

"I hope that this new step of adopting an AI voice model can also be a moment to start a conversation about new and creative ways we can continue to empower people facing the kinds of health issues as I have and to show that our abilities do not define who we are," Wexton said.

"It was, I mean, groundbreaking. Like, it sent chills down my spine," responded Rich Spain, the director of development for CurePSP, a nonprofit that’s worked with Wexton and many others battling neurodegenerative diseases.

"When I watched her video," Spain said, "it’s evident how it has empowered her, and what I’m thinking about, and I know what we’re gonna think about here at CurePSP, is how it could positively empower countless others in our community. When she said ‘life-changing opportunities to hear my new/old AI voice,’ like, that’s incredible to hear."

You can watch Wexton’s full video here.