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GRPS using AI technology to reach broader audience

GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadrianne Roby shoots a vlog at Coit Creative Arts Academy.
David Limbaugh
GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadrianne Roby shoots a vlog at Coit Creative Arts Academy.

The Grand Rapids Public School district is utilizing artificial intelligence, or AI, in order to better communicate with its Spanish-speaking families

“Hello, I’m your superintendent, Dr. Leadriane Roby. Thanks for clicking on this vlog.”

With the click of a mouse, it not only sounds, but also looks like Dr. Roby is speaking Spanish, but she’s not.

“The first time that I saw it I was like, ‘That person’s voice sounds like me,’ and even kind of the intonation and different things and I was like, ‘How did they do that?’”

Recently, the district began using computer software that can take video of someone speaking English and translate it into Spanish using the speaker’s voice. The technology also changes the speaker’s mouth movements to align with the Spanish words. So far, the district has only used the technology for Dr. Roby’s vlogs on the GRPS website. She says the feedback has been positive.

“I’ve even had people who are from our community come up and speak to me Espanol and I’m like, ‘I don’t speak Spanish,’ and so that tells me also that it’s reaching our audience and it looks like I’m actually speaking in Spanish.”

The district is made up of about 40% Hispanic students. About 28% of those students have Spanish listed as their preferred language to communicate with their families. The district hopes to add more languages in the future.

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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