Synthetic Voice Technology Needs to Iron Out its AI-Related Ethical and Legal Issues


Synthetic voice generation is now leveraging AI-generated technology to capture and create more realistic voices, which is raising new hopes and concerns about its use.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and UC Berkeley have developed a revolutionary brain-computer interface (BCI) that enables a paralyzed woman to communicate via a digital avatar, translating brain signals into speech and facial expressions. Meanwhile, Google is tightening regulations on AI in political advertising, necessitating clear disclosures for synthetically altered content on platforms like YouTube. This policy change, set to be effective from mid-November, addresses the growing ease of creating realistic AI-generated content. As tech advancements continue to reshape communication in medical and political arenas, regulatory bodies like the Federal Election Commission are exploring further guidelines for AI-generated content. Platforms like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are already setting boundaries, while TikTok remains stringent, banning all political ads.

These examples underscore the tremendous possibility of AI-enhanced technology to take synthetic voice into exciting new areas. It also illustrates the concerns and risks of such technology and how businesses and lawmakers grapple with such issues.

Synthetic voice was a big topic at the Voice & AI Summit 2023. With the potential of AI-enhance voice technology to play a positive role in multiple industries, including voice actors, can developers create ethical and positive tech for end users and voice actors?

Mellini Monique, the Founder and Principal Vocal Culturist at Vocal Culture Garden, attended Voice & AI 2023. She agrees that there are concerns on the legal and ethical front in terms of the technology. Still, if done correctly, the tech could generate new opportunities to benefit business and voice actors.

Mellini’s Thoughts

“Who owns it? How much are they getting paid? What are the ethical implications around this? But one thing I do know, synthetic voice is not going away. It will only become easier to adopt and use, and I believe there can be a beautiful synergy between the voice actor and their synthetic voice.

There are many applications or use cases for synthetic voice, in particular. So, in one use case, we like to think about commerce, but it could be literally about extending the life of your own physical voice. So many people have larynx damage, and before their voice completely disappears, they can record their voice now, get a synthetic voice made, and use that voice when they can no longer use their natural speaking voice. So that’s one use case. Another use case that I just recently found about is that in therapy, people have lost loved ones, and this one is a double-edged sword, even in my mind, as a former therapist, but they are recreating the voices of their deceased ones to ease and to cope with sudden loss. Okay, so look at that, but then let’s look at our friends in the voiceover community.

When their bread and butter has been using their voice, they’re very much uneasy with synthetic voice because does that mean they’re now out of work? Or if they get their synthetic voices made, who owns it? How much are they getting paid? What are the ethical implications around this? But one thing I do know, synthetic voice is not going away. It’s only gonna become easier to adopt and use, and I believe there can be a beautiful synergy between the voice actor and their synthetic voice. So, imagine I’m a voice actress. I have a synthetic voice. I’m at home sleeping; my synthetic voice is out working. It’s a win-win situation, especially if we’re taking care of the legalities and ethical issues surrounding synthetic voice.”

Article by James Kent

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