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AI voices - artificial intelligence

A brief history of AI voices

Over the last decade AI voice technology has developed at a significant rate. The uses of AI voices are many, but we are seeing them utilised more and more in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, messaging services and voice assistant technology.

Although we may all know about this innovative technology because it is in so many modern devices and applications in our daily lives, it has actually been around in various forms for longer than many people realise.

Synthetic speech has actually existed for 200 years or more in a mechanical form. It was created initially by those looking to study voice function, and then later, it was used primarily to help people who were unable to speak.

Beginning with good intentions

A speaking machine was actually first created in 1770 when professor Kratzenstein, a Russian citizen, created a machine that made vowel sounds. A few years later, a mechanical speech machine was created that could make multiple noise types, including full words. Both of these machines were basic and worked by replicating human vocal structures.

In 1930, an electronic speech machine was made by Homer Dudley. It was a developed version of a World War One machine and was called the Voder. It was able to speak without human input initially, which was ground-breaking at the time. It was shown at the World Fair, but never developed further than a prototype.

In the 60’s, public use machines started to appear as modified typewriters. They then developed into synthetic voice systems controlled by interaction such as eye movement.

Perhaps the most famous example of a synthetic voice system was that created for Stephen Hawking in 1985 when he lost his voice. The iconic voice of Hawking, now known the world over, is in fact the voice of Dennis Klatt. He was a pioneer in computer-generated speech algorithms, then working at MIT, and recorded his own voice for use in the speech synthesiser. 

“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.”

Stephen Hawking

A leap in development

Of course, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice has never only been for use by people who are unable to speak. AI voices have been developed for multiple other technologies such as voice-controlled personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. Siri first became available to iPhone users in 2011 followed by Alexa in 2014 and Google Assistant in 2016.

Scientists have long been competing to create the most intelligent speaking system that is able to fully replicate the human voice. However, it is only over the last few years that human speech has been replicated to a degree where it sounds realistic in AI form.

In 2017, Lyrebird (now the AI Research Division of Descript) released a product that can mimic any person’s voice after just one minute of analysing their speech. Google and Adobe have made similarly impressive technological advances, but Lyrebird continues to be at the forefront because of its short processing time.

The most impressive element of Lyrebird, beyond the 60 second analysis, is its ability to be influenced with emotions like anger, sympathy and playfulness. This opens it up to all kinds of positive uses such as famous person voiceovers and animated movies.

Of course, these kinds of AI voice technologies can be used for less positive outcomes too, such as imitation of famous voices to generate fake news or fake incriminating evidence. This means that controversy has surrounded these technologies since their creation, so people should be aware this technology exists and that audio recordings can be altered in the same way as images.

The future of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence may be increasingly popular, but we don’t think there’s any need to worry about AI voices taking over any time soon. There are still many aspects of the human voice that are very difficult to replicate with AI, including personality and emotional nuances.

So, whether you’re looking for a new voice for your IVR system, or someone to voice your new explainer, we’ll be able to find the perfect voice artist within our expansive database and you will benefit from our expert voiceover service. Our talented voice artists can provide the ideal tone for your project, without the need for AI, as nothing quite beats the unique sound of the human voice.

So, why not take a look at our wide range of voice actors, or get in touch with us for some expert advice?

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