OpenAI introduces Voice Engine

The introduction of this voice technology coincides with concerns about the misuse of AI-generated deepfakes in elections.

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OpenAI unveiled a new AI tool, Voice Engine, capable of generating lifelike speech by analysing a mere 15-second audio sample, as announced in OpenAI’s blog post. The tool aims to offer reading assistance, aid translation efforts, and provide a voice for nonverbal individuals with speech conditions. Despite its potential benefits, OpenAI acknowledges the serious risks associated with the technology, especially during an election year.

Voice Engine, developed by OpenAI in late 2022, has undergone private testing with a select group of partners who have agreed to usage policies requiring explicit consent from original speakers and prohibiting unauthorised impersonation. OpenAI stresses the importance of transparency, with partners mandated to disclose that the voices are AI-generated and that all audio produced by Voice Engine includes watermarking for traceability.

OpenAI advocates for responsible deployment of synthetic voices, suggesting measures such as voice authentication and a ‘no-go voice list’ to prevent misuse. The company recommends phasing out voice-based authentication to access sensitive information like bank accounts. However, the widespread release of Voice Engine remains uncertain as OpenAI seeks feedback and evaluates the results of its small-scale tests before deciding on broader deployment.

Why does it matter?

The introduction of Voice Engine comes amid rising concerns over AI-generated deepfakes and their potential to disseminate misinformation, particularly in political contexts. Recent incidents, such as a fake robocall imitating President Biden and an AI-generated video of a Senate candidate, underscore the urgency of addressing advanced AI technologies’ ethical and societal implications.