Voice Replication via AI – Time To Start Worrying?

voice cloning imageYesterday I stumbled across a tweet mentioning a website called Lyrebird. It appears to be an artificial intelligence (A.I.) service that can replicate or clone the human voice; enabling you to make a voice say whatever you want it to.

It’s not long ago something like this would be completely in the realms of science fiction. But it seems that it’s becoming ever-closer to being science fact.

From what I’ve seen, it’s very much in the early stages, as it’s not 100% foolproof. But from the demos I’ve heard using former President Barack Obama as a sample, the results are impressive, as it is certainly recognisable as his voice; (the wording of the below video being something he hasn’t actually said. It is purely generated from samples of his voice and cloned to essentially make him say anything you like).

Their actions, as a company, certainly appear to be completely honourable & benign. One potential application for example being for people who have health problems that prevent them from being able to speak or communicate verbally.

They’ve written a blog about the potential privacy issues, including misuse, & how they’re going to try and combat this issue.

But as this sort of technology improves and becomes difficult to differentiate from an actual human voice and a genuine recording; it will bring up potential problems including copyright on someone’s voice, people getting around misuse policies, passing off as well known people; as well as for humble voice over artists like me and many others. What would stop people using samples of our voices and generating new recorded content for future productions?

Imagine a scenario of voice over artists losing out financially if scripts change after a VO is completed, and a client needs more content to fit into a production; and being tempted to end up using facilities like this to quickly generate new recordings on the fly!

A.I. is something that can either be a blessing or a curse. There are many potential benefits; but they must be handled carefully. I foresee many instances of something like this being abused. Let’s hope there will be multiple safeguards in place.

Weird times we’re living in…..

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