Resurrection! AI Brings Dead Actors’ Voices to Life Again

Z Patel

Artificial intelligence is entering yet another business area: resurrecting the voices of deceased actors… for modern-day audiobooks. Through advanced AI technology, actors like Judy Garland, James Dean, and Burt Reynolds, will narrate books and other content. Their narration occurs despite never having recorded these works during their lifetimes.

What’s Happening & Why This Matters

Earlier this week, ElevenLabs, an AI company, announced its latest venture: the Reader app. This app converts text into voice-overs, using digitally reproduced voices of celebrities, including those of deceased actors. It can handle articles, PDFs, ePubs, newsletters, e-books, or any other text format, turning them into lifelike narrations. Dustin Blank, head of partnerships at ElevenLabs, emphasized the respect and honor the company holds for these actors’ legacies. The inclusion of these voices makes content accessible in various languages and voices which broadens the reach and impact of digital media.

Judy Garland and Burt Reynolds. Credit: Cnn/Getty Images

Legal and Ethical Considerations

ElevenLabs has secured agreements with the estates of the actors whose voices are being used. Details on compensation remains undisclosed. Digital voice recreation, while not new, shows AI can be used in Hollywood, raising important questions about licensing, copyright, and the ethical use of technology. David Gunkel, a professor at Northern Illinois University, noted that while individuals cannot copyright their voices, the recordings themselves are protected under copyright law.

The use of AI-generated voices is becoming more prevalent. NBC recently announced the use of an AI version of sportscaster Al Michaels for Olympic recaps on its Peacock streaming platform. Using AI voice recreation is a growing practice (with degrees of acceptance) and commercial potential.

Challenges and Concerns

The rise of AI-generated voices brings challenges around authenticity and the potential for misuse. Earlier this year, ElevenLabs was in the spotlight when its tool was used to create a fake robocall from President Joe Biden. This incident highlights 1) the ease of abuse, 2) the need for careful regulation, and 3) ethical guidelines accepted by practitioners.

TF Summary: What’s Next

AI’s ability to recreate voices opens new doors for media and entertainment, offering innovative ways to preserve and celebrate the legacies of iconic figures. However, it also necessitates a balance of legal and ethical standards. As AI crash into daily life activities, its integration into creative industries requires robust frameworks that ensure its responsible use. The future will see more partnerships between tech companies and estates — providing new opportunities for content creation — while honoring the legacies of beloved personalities.

— Text-to-Speech (TTS) provided by gspeech

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By Z Patel “TF AI Specialist”
Zara ‘Z’ Patel stands as a beacon of expertise in the field of digital innovation and Artificial Intelligence. Holding a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a specialization in Machine Learning, Z has worked extensively in AI research and development. Her career includes tenure at leading tech firms where she contributed to breakthrough innovations in AI applications. Z is passionate about the ethical and practical implications of AI in everyday life and is an advocate for responsible and innovative AI use.
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