A Situational Analysis of Current Speech-Synthesis Systems for Child Voices: A Scoping Review of Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence

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Applied Sciences

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Background: Speech synthesis has customarily focused on adult speech, but with the rapid development of speech-synthesis technology, it is now possible to create child voices with a limited amount of child-speech data. This scoping review summarises the evidence base related to developing synthesised speech for children. (2) <i>Method:</i> The included studies were those that were (1) published between 2006 and 2021 and (2) included child participants or voices of children aged between 2&ndash;16 years old. (3) <i>Results:</i> 58 studies were identified. They were discussed based on the languages used, the speech-synthesis systems and/or methods used, the speech data used, the intelligibility of the speech and the ages of the voices. Based on the reviewed studies, relative to adult-speech synthesis, developing child-speech synthesis is notably more challenging. Child speech often presents with acoustic variability and articulatory errors. To account for this, researchers have most often attempted to adapt adult-speech models, using a variety of different adaptation techniques. (4) <i>Conclusions:</i> Adapting adult speech has proven successful in child-speech synthesis. It appears that the resulting quality can be improved by training a large amount of pre-selected speech data, aided by a neural-network classifier, to better match the children&rsquo;s speech. We encourage future research surrounding individualised synthetic speech for children with CCN, with special attention to children who make use of low-resource languages.