Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking get AI voice clones, thanks to Facebook engineers

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New Delhi | Published: June 22, 2019 3:46:55 PM

Mike Lewis and Sean Vasquez, the two Facebook engineers developed a computer generated speech system called MelNet using Artificial Intelligence. Not just Voices of famous personalities, they have also created voice and music samples using AI.

Bill Gates with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University in 1997. (Reuters)

Using Artificial Intelligence, two Facebook engineers have now successfully cloned the voices of famous personalities including Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and American actor George Takei among few others.

Mike Lewis and Sean Vasquez, the two Facebook engineers developed a computer generated speech system called MelNet using Artificial Intelligence. Not just the voices of famous personalities, they have also created voice and music samples using AI.

In a recently published research paper, they mentioned relying on machine learning for the convincing AI generated voice clips. Apart from Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and George Takei, others whose voice have been cloned are – primatologist Jane Goodall, professors Daphne Koller, Fei Fei Li, scientist Stephen Wolfram and Khan Academy founder Sal Khan.

All the voice and music clips have been uploaded in MelNet’s website – audio-samples.github.io. On the website, under the section ‘Selected Speakers’ one can find all the voice clone samples made by MelNet. Even though some of the sentences may seem non-sensical, they have reportedly been taken from ‘Harvard Sentences’ – a collection of phonetically balanced phrases, which is used by engineers and scientist to test such artificial voice programmes and communications system.

However, MelNet is not the first to clone someone’s voice or create AI-generated audio clips. Nearly a month before them, a Artificial Intelligence startup Dessa, also created a pretty realistic AI audio clip of Joe Regan, an American stand-up comedian.

However, according to MIT Technology Review, mimicking a person’s voice over a longer period of time is still difficult, as machine learning programmes are yet to process the shifts and changing tones of the human voice. None of the clones made by AI are, though, not perfect clones, but they seem quite convincing to the listeners.

While there is plenty of positive potential application for such technology, it also mounts the concern over the malicious uses of it. Like the recently surfaced artificially altered videos of US President Donald Trump and politician Nancy Pelosi – technologies like this always leaves one wondering if would make it difficult for them to differentiate between truth and lies.

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