AI recreates voice of Czech literary great Karel Čapek

New interactive app

The great Czech novelist, playwright, journalist and travel writer Karel Čapek, is world famous for his R.U.R. or The War with the Newts, but even his biggest fans are not familiar with the sound of his voice. Thanks to a new app made in cooperation with Czech Radio that is now possible.

Karel Čapek Memorial in Stará Hut | Photo: Natalie Máchová,  Czech Radio

Czechs are first introduced to the works of the great Czech novelist and story writer Karel Čapek through the popular children’s book Dashenka or the Life of a Puppy, first published in 1933. Later they discover Krakatit, The War with the Newts, The Insect Play and Tales from Two Pockets. But even people who know his works inside out would be hard put to bring to mind the sound of his voice.

The Karel Čapek Memorial in Stará Hut near Dobříš has now made that possible with a new interactive app created with the help of artificial intelligence and Czech Radio.

The memorial to Karel Čapek in Stará Hut is in located in his beloved summer residence, an Empire-style house which he and his wife Olga Scheinpflugová received as a wedding gift in 1935.

Karel Čapek Memorial in Stará Hut | Photo: Natalie Máchová,  Czech Radio

It was here that some of his best known works were created. It was here that Čapek hosted leading personalities of the time and it was here that he spent the last three years of his life. The new exhibition at the memorial gives visitors a glimpse of his life at his beloved country house.

The app shows visitors the place as it was at the time –offering a series of authentic historical photos of the Čapeks and their friends at the summer house, walking their dog, relaxing or working in the garden.  Zdeněk Vacek, the director of the Karel Čapek Memorial, explains.

New interactive app | Photo: Natalie Máchová,  Czech Radio

“We have prepared a small challenge for visitors –to compare the past and present and find the spot from which the original picture was taken. All these historical images are from our archive and at the end of the walk the visitor has a collection that they can easily share.”

Čapek and his friends liked to spend time outdoors. For example, he paved the bank of a nearby brook with his close friend, writer Ferdinand Peroutka. And it is Peroutka's memories that the synthesized voice of Karel Čapek reads in the app.

Zdeněk Vacek explains how the recording was made.

"Thanks to Czech Radio, we have obtained all the available recordings of Karel Čapek. This was relatively easy, since the recordings are less than 10 minutes in total. Čapek had a monotonous voice, he did not  like to speak in public, much less in front of a microphone, which explains why there are so few recordings. And on the basis of these recordings, AI software could synthesize his voice and we could have him read some of his own authentic statements or those of his friends about their time spent here."

Near the Karel Čapek Memorial in Stará Huť | Photo: Natalie Máchová,  Czech Radio

The app's historical photo tour has ten stops. There is also a special route for children called Fairy Tales from Příbramsko.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Natalie Máchová | Source: Český rozhlas
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