A headline to a post written by Backchannel Editor, Jessi Hempel, reads, “Voice is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It.”
Hempel writes about the maturing of Amazon’s Echo in the coming years. How we’ll access information using our voice and not the keyboard, touch screen or other input devices we rely on now. Speak it, and it will come. Think Star Trek’s Computer on the Next Generation Enterprise, Theodore Twombly’s assistant Samantha in the motion picture Her, or the HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It’s Not What You Say, it’s What You Hear
Part of the excitement of using voice input are the voice responses from the device. Retrieving requested information and executing tasks on demand is a natural extension of how we live with computers. The voice feedback should sound natural and genuinely human.
What We Have Now
If you own an iPhone, Siri responds when you utter a request. Asking Siri to do the same thing multiple times might give you a variety of verbal responses, but the intonation of the same response sounds the same from the first instance to the next. Changes in vocal texture are missing, and they’re what’s needed to make the experience more comfortable and life-like.
Could This Be the Next Big Thing for Voice Actors?
Imagine being booked to record thousands of phrases multiple times. Each time you repeated a phrase, it would contain unique vocal qualities. Then, intelligent AI programming, using natural language processing, would use your words to build responses on the fly. Voice stress, breathiness, pace, and volume would be part of the reply computation.
Maybe you would audition your voice from one company to another. Companies, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others, could catalog voices and make choosing a specific one an option when buying a device like an iPhone or Echo.
You wouldn’t pay to have your voice hosted, but would receive a royalty payment whenever a client selects it as the voice for their new device. Perhaps in the future, there will be a need for a new type of agent who focuses only on voices for vocal response.
Last year I was invited to record thousands of phrases for a cutting edge company working on delivering a unique voice to vocally challenged people. VocalID is transforming digital speech replacement with human vocal characteristics. Their charter is to bring speaking machines to life. They’re doing that by matching vocal efforts of people who don’t have the ability of speech with those who do and using special software to meld the two. The result is surprising.
Vocal banks may become a new opportunity for voice actors. More devices and situations for vocal feedback are coming. The companies working on AI and voice interfaces, like those mentioned above, will create more needs for vocal feedback and your voice may be part of their roster.
© 2017 J. Christopher Dunn