- AI is entering the publishing industry in the form of artificial human voices narrating audiobooks.
- Some voice actors are avoiding jobs that could lead to their voices being cloned by AI.
- AI is still far from perfectly replicating human narrators, an industry expert told CNBC.
Audiobooks could soon be narrated by artificial intelligence instead of voice actors as technological advancements make professionals across the industry question their futures.
Sales in the audiobook sector of the publishing industry are predicted to grow 26% a year from 2022 to 2030, and hit $35 billion by 2030, according to data from research organization Wordsrated.
As the industry booms, voice actors are becoming more wary of AI’s potential to be used to clone their voices, according to CNBC.
AI-generated voices are already being used by Google Play and Apple Books in some instances. Apple quietly rolled out dozens of audiobooks narrated by voices named “Jackson” and “Madison” on the Books app, Insider’s Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert reported.
Google Play offers publishers an auto-narration option for audiobooks so long as publishers own the rights to the audiobook, per CNBC.
“I refuse (voiceover) work that states they’ll take my voice and make an AI model from it,” voice actor Brad Ziffer told CNBC. “The best way to protect myself is to just stay away.”
However, experts say seamlessly replicating the way a human talks with AI is still a ways away. Human beings offer unique intonation, cadence, and emotion when they speak.
“People are highly sensitive to sound,” voiceover marketplace executive David Ciccarelli told CNBC.
“What humans can do best that AI can’t is timing,” Ciccarelli said, “be it the awkward pause or a hilarious sense of comedic timing, it’s difficult for an AI voice to get this right out-of-the-box.”
In a January test of five audiobook excerpts, Insider was able to correctly determine which clips were narrated by a human and which were the work of Apple’s AI-generated voices. However, the non-human voices weren’t completely off-putting.
“I’m very cautious regarding the world of AI. I believe it has great potential … but it can be easy to abuse,” Ziffer told CNBC. “Right now, I still believe a real human VO has no equal. Synthesized voice algorithms aren’t there yet to be able to fully reproduce all the nuances of the human voice.”
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