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When writers had their jobs stolen by AIs, some other creators thought it would never get to them. Then it hit video game illustrators in China. Now, AI voice synthesizers are also threatening to take over the job of video game voice actors. Ironically, AI voice synthesizer is hailed as the future of video games. So, why is AI voice synthesizer receiving accolades?

The job of voice actors is threatened by AI voice synthesizers (Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)
The job of voice actors is threatened by AI voice synthesizers (Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)

In 2013, during the development of Red Dead Redemption 2 for PlayStation 4, a total of 700 voice actors recorded 1,200 voices in 2,200 days. The voice actors had to recite 500,000 lines of dialogue. It was a massive feat that would be nearly impossible for smaller video game studios to replicate.

“We would hope that there’d be hundreds if not thousands of other studios that could dream of building games like Red Dead Redemption 2 because everyone wants to do that,” said Shreyas Nivas, the CEO of Replica Studios. “[Individually recording each dialogue line] is so inefficient from a cost perspective, but also from a time perspective, and you need to have these huge teams.”

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However, with AI voice synthesizers, it has become easier to recreate human voices as well as to create automated real-time responses. The other benefit of the use of AI voice synthesizers in video games is that they offer almost limitless dialogue options as well as speech tailored to the unique input of the user.

In 2019, Replica Studios, an Australian software developer rolled out a voice synthesizer platform for game developers. PlaySide Studios, an Australian game developer used the tool for the pre-production of their game called Age of Darkness: Final Stand.

“We use Replica’s software to test scripts, dialogue, and gameplay sequences before engaging human voice actors to record the final lines,” said Chris O’Neill, Senior Audio Designer at PlaySide Studios. “Style Morphing will give our actors a more accurate and realistic idea of what developers would like the final dialogue and gameplay sequences to sound like. This helps inform voice actors about the emotion, projection, or context clues we’d like them to convey in their performance.”

AI voice synthesizers can be styled to different vocal tones

Style morphing update is an update to Replica's AI voice synthesizer

On 20 April 2023, Replica Studios unveiled the Style Morphing Update for its AI voice synthesizers. According to the company, Style Morphing takes the art of blending to a new height by making it possible for users to create entirely new in-between voice styles.

“Just as blending colors in a painting can create a wide range of hues and tones, blending voice styles softens the edges between different emotions and creates a more cohesive and appealing voice experience, solving the challenge of making AI voices sound authentic. Style morphing expands the number of styles for each voice dramatically, to 1000+ styles across all 120+ voices, by introducing in-between styles for pre-existing key styles.”

Replica Studios Style Morphing Update Video Premiere
AI voice synthesizer from Replica can be morphed in over 1000 ways

Nivas believes that AI voice synthesizers are the future but was also worried about the ethical dilemma. Replica Studios’ AI voice synthesizer licensed the voices of 120 voice actors for use in video games. However, some free online AI voice synthesizers can now mimic movie characters and celebrities—often without their permission.

According to a Bloomberg report, some voice actors were dazed when they discovered their voices in contents they were never part of. However, they later learned that their contracts were broad enough to account for such usage.

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Driven by anxiety, the Japan Performing Arts Workers’ Association with about 52,000 members held a press conference earlier in May to raise awareness about the potential impact of AI voice synthesizers on music and voice acting. The group called for legislation to safeguard the jobs of voice actors.

AI voice synthesizer

According to Nivas, Replica was pursuing a licensing model that allows voice actors to continue earning from their voice even when they are not recording in a studio.

“There’s a lot of things to get right, but we’re trying to build this in a way in which we take the voice actors along on a journey with us. So, we’re trying to be the most transparent about the process.”

Shreyas Nivas

Replica is offering up to 5 minutes of free speech generation credit to help new users test the Style Morphing with over 120+ Replica’s licensed voices. More information is available on the company’s blog.

Increasing calls for laws to protect voice actors

At the moment, there are no copyright laws protecting voices from AI. Also, many contracts give companies the right to reuse and sell voices. Some time ago, Remie Michelle Clarke, a renowned voice artist with clients like Mastercard and Microsoft revealed to The Washington Post that she discovered an AI voice model on that sounded like her.

Video game voice actors are threatened by AI voice synthesizer (Photo credit: Dmitry Demidov/Pexels)
Video game voice actors are threatened by AI voice synthesizer (Photo credit: Dmitry Demidov/Pexels)

Revoicer said Clarke’s voice was obtained through a licensing agreement with Microsoft but said they would take it out after Washington Post reached out to them. Also, Universal Music Group got YouTube to remove videos of AI-generated Drake and Eminem.

For as little as $27/month, Revoicer subscribers can access hundreds of voice models that can be made to say anything in different accents and emotions. The company claims the process is faster and simpler than hiring a human—and companies don’t have to pay for redos.

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Earlier in 2023, ElevenLabs saw people troop to use their free voice synthesis platform. Some of the visitors used the company’s tech to clone celebrity voices and have them read out audio ranging from hate speech to erotica and misinformation.

On 1 February 2023, ElevenLabs announced that it will deploy additional security to the platform. Part of the measures the company would enforce includes stopping free users from creating custom voices, launching a tool to detect AI-generated audio, and banning accounts reported for creating harmful content.

It is important to have legislations that will mandate companies providing AI voice synthesizing tools to have mechanisms to prevent the negative use of their tools. Also, voice actors should be paid royalties each time their voice is used in a project.

Should the rise of AI voice synthesizers bother video game voice actors?


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