Synthetic Voice: Revolutionary or Repugnant?

by | Oct 5, 2009 | Acting, Audiobooks, Books, New Paradigms, Op/Ed, Professional Voice Over Organizations, Software, Technical, Technology | 1 comment

C3POThere’s been a lot of traffic recently on a forum populated by AudioBook readers, bantering about issue of computer-generated voices.

That topic is traditionally disdained by a group so dedicated to the finer nuances of a good read. These are serious audio-book listeners who celebrate the various human narrators, and the interpretation each one brings to a narrative.

But something new and improved has surfaced, and it’s making some converts even among this hard-core group of those favoring the real human voice.

So listen to the samples at LOQUENDO and then I’ll finish up below.  It’s an international site, so you have to scroll down to hear the US/English samples.


So….whadya think?  I agree, it’s the best computer generated voice I’ve ever heard.

Much of the give ‘n’ take on this forum moved into the realm of where the artistry is in this sort of software solution…and how would the audiobook publisher business model change.  Beyond that, the discussion also addressed who has rights, and what is the revenue stream.  Can a programmer replace a narrator?  How labor-intensive and artistry-intensive is that?

This hard-core group of audiobook aficionados, agrees this is the best “fake” voice they’ve heard, but also agree it’s not there…yet.

Which, of course prompts the question: “When?”.

Text-to-Speech and voice recognition programs (eg. Dragon Naturally Speaking) have always been reliant on complex formulas or algorithms that incorporate the finer points of artificial intelligence.  They’ve steadily gotten better with each new jump in computer speed and function.

It’s likely that we’re not far from a computer-generated voice accomplished enough to satisfy a sector of buyers who aren’t as discerning as the audiobook group mentioned above.

So now, I’ll state the question that has already likely bubbled-up in your own mind:  “Is this likely to hurt yet another sector of jobs/clients now available to us as voice-actors?”

Your thoughts?




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1 Comment

  1. Brett Bumeter

    I’ve been involved as a serious hobbyist with voice recognition and text to speech software for about 10 years now. Dragon Naturally Speaking has made some amazing strides during that time from being completely non-functional to amazingly easy requiring almost no training out of the box.

    Listening to these ’emotional voices’ I did think that these were extremely good. You can still tell they are digital voices, but the tell tale signs aren’t that different from some very low quality recordings or mixes that give REAL voices a digital edge through VOIP and things.

    I think the pricing of the platform is the thing that essentially secures a temporary safe place for voice actors. The price points for using an emotional voice are not all that different from lower end price points for voice actors. Voice actors on the higher end . . . well . . . they are on the higher end sometimes for a reason.

    That said, I think the writing is on the wall, or at least on my computer screen, this will definitely be a force to contend with in the next 5 years.

    If that price point comes down by half or if the quality goes up by another 20% or the application to convert text to voice becomes even easier (thus saving time for the ‘producer’ and saving money that way), then voice acting price arbitrage will open up to synthesized voices for sure.


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