We’re at the point where the AI is capable of voice cloning. Feed the computer a high-quality sample audio and you can have Oprah Winfrey reading your morning news. Naturally, this is getting quite a few people in the entertainment industry worried. The concern is that once you have a copy of somebody’s voice, you no longer need their services to create content.
What Is Voice Cloning?
When we talk about voice cloning, what we mean is that a neural network is trained to parrot your voice. This is done by detecting unique patterns in your speech. Processed by the artificial intelligence, they are used to create a “voice image” which is then used to synthesise speech identical to your voice.
To achieve this, the program needs a sample. Usually it’s a script to be read out loud and recorded for further processing. When the neural network is finished learning, it’s left with a set of instructions on how to recreate a person’s voice.
You can see the potential. From advertising to filmmaking, from identity theft to amateur sequels to your favourite shows. Words like “deepfake” and “copyright” get thrown around a lot.
But how good is voice cloning really?
As of 2022, the high-quality voice cloning software is still in the realm of commercial products. Think photo editing before the advent of the user-friendly online programs.
As for the accuracy, it varies. Emotions and tone of voice pose the biggest challenge. Even the best of voice clones can be discovered if you pay attention… yet.
However, there are areas in which voice cloning is good enough to start replacing humans.
It’s All About Money
Text-to-speech is the most common application of voice cloning (we’ve done the opposite and developed a speech-to-text recorder, but that’s a story for another time). The AI takes upon the role of a voice actor: one that has no schedule and doesn’t get paid.
This has been drawing the attention of actual, human voice actors. Some of them fear their jobs might become automated.
(Fun fact: AI-generated art has been causing quite a stir in the artist community as of late.)
Does voice cloning reduce the cost of labour? Currently, yes. A software licence is cheaper than hiring new people, and you cannot force businesses to avoid shortcuts.
Another concern expressed by actors is unauthorised use of the voice image. Once the sample has been recorded, the “donor” loses control over their voice. This is especially true about the widely sought-after celebrity actors.
A recent example of voice cloning gone viral would be James Earl Jones’ speech recreated for the Star Wars franchise, an action regarded by the fans as controversial. While James Earl Jones stepped down from his role as Darth Vader, he permitted Disney to keep using his voice, synthesising brand new dialogue to keep the character alive.
Ultimately, profit is king.
For companies, voice cloning reduces the costs. It eliminates the casting and the headhunting, the management and the salaries. For voice actors, voice cloning might mean different opportunities – not everyone likes that.
First Taste of the Future
One thing is clear: nothing short of an apocalypse can stop the progress of voice technology. The quick and dirty work, such as voicing random NPCs for video games, is almost certainly going to go full AI. The market for voice acting is about to change, but it’s not going to disappear.
What actors can reasonably expect when voice cloning becomes commonplace:
- fewer freelance opportunities
- some niches, like mobile games and chat bots, relegated to the AI
- selling licences for using a voice, copyrighting voice images
- human actors will not become obsolete
While it might take some time and effort to adjust to the revolution, voice acting as an occupation is not going to go extinct. Voice cloning will get absorbed into the industry as another tool of the trade, and acting – the irreplaceable human factor – will remain in demand.
At Senstone Inc., we are passionate about voice technology. Our smart speech-to-text recorder is one of the best on the market. If you want to learn more about us, visit the Senstone home page. For more articles and blog posts like this one, click here and check out the blog.
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