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Are the Robots coming for Voiceover?

Decades ago, it took a long time for the most advanced computer to do simple tasks. Today, the phone in our pockets has vastly more computing power than those older, significantly larger and vastly more expensive machines. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the world is starting to be felt. This is only going to continue as the power of computing and technology follows Moore’s law (overall processing power for computers will double every two years). Various sources suggest a few startling facts over the coming 10 – 15 years:

  1. Half of all American jobs will be replaced by AI

  2. 4 million British private sector jobs (15% of the workforce) will be replaced by AI

  3. A significant number of careers are going to be replaced and automated by AI

  4. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, in an interview with the Australian Financial Review, stated that computers would soon take over most human tasks and that the future for people isn’t looking good

A future where AI automates and replaces a large part of human labour is coming. Is voiceover in line to be automated?

For awhile the AI voice space has had computerised voices answering telephone calls and in text to speech applications. The original iterations and even later ones were laughable in their humanity. Today, Google, Adobe, Lyrebird are all at the forefront of replicating human voices with more and more human likeness. Lyrebird can take 60 seconds of someone speaking and use that to create any speech in that person’s voice. They did it with Obama, Trump and Hilary Clinton recently. Where does that leave the buyer of voiceover services? Would you trust it for your commercial, corporate video or elearning module? Lets listen in….

What does this mean? Computers are lightyears ahead of humans at data crunching and analysis. So they can be called in to replace mechanised and repetitive jobs, like on a car production line. However, humans far excel at things which are uniquely ours: free will, emotional engagement and consciousness – in short what makes us human. These things computers cannot do. Taking this to voiceovers, a machine can recreate a voice for a telephone call answering system, but it can't convey the joy and sheer delight in a chocolate commercial or the anguish of a charity commercial. The human element in the voice, the one that has been trained and developed for years, made of flesh and bone cannot be replicated by a machine. That day may come. For now, it’s the human and their ability to infuse words with meaning that ultimately affects an audience

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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers

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