Artificial intelligence (AI) is on course to become the next industrial revolution, impacting nearly every industry in one way or another. And that includes podcasting, where AI voice cloning technology is changing the landscape by offering content creators the ability to generate lifelike voices with ease.
The cutting-edge innovation is expected to transform audio production, with AI-powered tools becoming increasingly popular among podcast hosts and producers. However, it is necessary to take a broad look at the production process using AI voice cloning, ethical concerns, and what the future of podcasting might hold as AI-generated voices become more difficult to distinguish.
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What Is AI Voice Cloning?
While the process behind it is complex, AI voice cloning is the use of AI to generate lifelike synthetic voices. It works by analyzing and mimicking the characteristics of a person’s voice. The process involves:
- Training machine learning algorithms on a dataset of an individual’s speech recordings
- Capturing various phonemes, intonations, and nuances
- Recreating the voice using the gathered data
Therefore, once a voice model is generated, AI can then produce spoken content based on text input, basically cloning the original speaker’s voice.
AI Voice Cloning in Podcast Production
When it comes to podcasting, the same principles as above apply. An AI voice clone is created, typically using a recorded script consisting of various phrases to capture a range of mouth movements and phonemes.
While there might be some use for it when it comes to creating entire podcasts using a mimicked voice, there are smaller, more common uses for it in its current form. These include things like podcast producers using AI voice cloning tools for editing purposes to do the following:
- Fix mispronunciations
- Correct factual errors
- Create ad reads
It is all relatively simple once the model is created, simply requiring users to write text and let the AI do its thing. However, that is enough to make it a powerful post-production tool that saves time otherwise devoted to retakes and additional recordings.
The Good and Bad of AI Voice Cloning for Podcasts
It sounds fantastic, and certain parts of it are, but there are also some disadvantages when using AI voice cloning technology. First, the good, which is that it allows for streamlined podcast production, simplified editing processes, and the ability to generate different voice aspects with ease.
However, AI voice cloning is not perfect, with these generated voices sometimes sounding monotonous or robotic, and there are often imperfections in rhythm and inflection. While there are plenty of companies working to enhance the “human” element in their AI voice clones, it is not quite there yet.
AI Voice Cloning Enables Deeper Storytelling
Another use of AI voice cloning is to bring to life a historical figure or celebrity, enhancing the narrative of the podcast. However, while the technology does provide plenty of creative avenues for content, it raises ethical concerns at the same time, particularly when the voices are used without consent, especially in the case of deceased individuals.
The Need for AI Voice Cloning Regulation
In its current state, content moderation on AI-generated voices is largely left to the platforms hosting the content. It is essential for these platforms to monitor and police content that uses AI-generated voices to prevent misuse. After all, like all technology, although it might not be intended for nefarious purposes, it often is and will continue to be used in that way.
Already, scammers have used AI voice cloning to deceive people, such as in a case of a Canadian grandmother who was nearly tricked into sending money to someone impersonating her grandson.
In response to such incidents and the proliferation of fake audio clips, companies like Play.ht and Descript are implementing safeguards to prevent unauthorized voice cloning and ensure the responsible use of their services.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director of SAG-AFTRA, a union representing a broad spectrum of performers, has expressed concern about the potential misuse of voice cloning for fake celebrity endorsements or other harmful purposes.
But whether that will be enough as AI voice cloning technology continues to advance is unknown. In time, it may become a subject of government regulation. For the time being, stakeholders in the industry are focused on working together to develop and implement appropriate safeguards, ensuring that the technology is used as responsibly and ethically as possible.
The Future of AI Voice Cloning in Podcasts
While there might be ethical challenges to navigate as the technology advances, particularly as it becomes harder to distinguish real from AI-generated, AI voice cloning does present a great deal of opportunity. For instance, if AI becomes good enough, how quickly could a script turn into an episode?
Even if a full episode is not created from a script, parts of it could be. Particularly, those who do not have guests or need to hold a conversation and rely on what are essentially well-crafted monologues.
At the same time, its use in storytelling and production has already been mentioned, and they are only likely to improve as time goes on. Moreover, with how affordable and accessible it is becoming, it will allow solo podcasters or small teams to breeze through post-production problems.
The main problem right now is still lacking realism, but even that is rapidly changing. One example using AI voice cloning comes from a reporter who tested the tech by creating recordings. While they were not as effective when played to his family members, the recordings did manage to fool nearly half of people who did not already know him.
Another problem is that podcasts are an intimate medium where the human connection is vital, making the potential loss of human connection something to be considered. Still, it is likely the technology will be embraced by the community at large, even with ethical and other issues looming overhead.
AI voice cloning technology is poised to reshape the podcasting industry, offering new possibilities for content creation and editing. While the technology continues to improve, it is crucial for creators, platforms, and listeners to consider the ethical implications, security concerns, and potential impact on the intimate nature of podcasts.
As AI voice cloning becomes more advanced and accessible, stakeholders must work together to ensure responsible and ethical use of this revolutionary technology in the podcasting landscape and beyond.