If you aren’t caught up in all the latest AI news, deepfakes and synthetic media technology have been some of the hottest topics in the industry recently. Just this month, Open AI released GPT-2 a neural network that has the ability to generate text with incredible grammatical accuracy and natural tone of voice. Based on recent breakthroughs, it is likely that synthetic voices will greatly affect the gaming industry in the near future.
What are Synthetic Voices?
At the basic level, synthetic voices are voices generated or altered by a computer program, meaning they are not real human voices. Due to amazing breakthroughs in AI technology, developers now have the ability to generate human-sounding voices or make copies of human voices.
How do Synthetic Voices Work?
I interviewed the CEO Replica Studios, one of the pioneers in synthetic voice technology, to find out. Basically, users can sign on to Replica’s platform or a similar platform and start recording their voice. After just a few minutes of recording, the neural network learns all the nuances, pronunciation and intonation patterns of your voice. Using this data the program creates a synthetic copy of your voice.
Once the voice copy is created, you can simply type in the text you want your synthetic voice to say.
Synthetic Voices in the Gaming Industry
Now that you know the basics of how they work, how can synthetic voices affect the video game industry? To begin, let’s look at how voiceovers are typically done today.
- Developers go through the hiring process and screening of applicants
- For major roles, auditions are often held to find the best voice actor for the position
- Voice actors are hired and given scripts
- Voice actors come to the studio to record scenes, sometimes including motion capture recording as well
- Audio is edited and reshoots may be requested for certain scenes
With the business model that Replica Studios envisions, voice actors would be able to simply record their voices and upload them to a voice marketplace where developers can license them. The synthetic voice workflow may look something like this:
- Developers choose a voice from the marketplace
- Type in dialogue and choose an emotion for the synthetic voice to perform
- Audio file for the dialogue is generated and edits may be made
To be clear, the technology isn’t yet at a capacity where this can be done on a large scale. The business structure for synthetic voice companies and the technology itself is still emerging. Various companies are working to improve this technology. However, once the technology reaches a point where synthetic voices are indistinguishable from human voices, they will offer many benefits to game developers worldwide.
Benefits of Synthetic Voices in Gaming
There are two parties in the gaming industry that would be heavily impacted by this technology, should it become mainstream.
This technology would provide a much more streamlined and easy way to provide voiceovers for video games. This technology eliminates the need for expensive recording studios on a grand scale. It eliminates the need for voice actors to be on location for recording days. In a nutshell, it should reduce overall costs of voice recording for video games and increase efficiency.
2. Voice Actors
Some of the resistance to synthetic voice technology comes from a worry that it will threaten the job market for voice actors. A lot of the resistance to AI and automation in general is due to this same reason. However, a synthetic voice market could help voice actors as well.
Instead of having to travel to on-site locations to do voice recordings, voice actors could simply upload their synthetic voice to a voice marketplace. Developers could then license the voice from the marketplace. Of course contracts would likely vary depending on the scale in which the voice will be used. However, the main point is voice actors could be paid licensing fees for their voice without having done any custom recording work.
Furthermore, they could be in two or more places at once. This technology allows them to license their voice to multiple companies at the same time.
I’d like to clarify that I am not a proponent of automation that causes people to lose jobs. However, I am a strong supporter of using AI tech to better our business models and our everyday lives.
I know there will be a lot of resistance to this technology at first, but educating yourself on both the pros and cons of it will help us make better decisions when implementing it going forward. Personally, I’d still prefer if main roles in video games are done with human voice actors the traditional way. However, with open-world games like Fallout and Skyrim, which have hundreds or thousands of NPCs, synthetic voices seem like a perfect way to scale vocalized dialogue.