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Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

Advancements in voice AI have pulled creators into uncharted territory: voice clones and deep fakes. Manually recording clips for video games, shows, and entertainment is time-consuming and expensive, but with voice technology, people can use existing clips to quickly craft custom recordings (of themselves or others) for tailored needs. Amazon has already tapped into this trend with its new Shaquille O’Neal and Melissa McCarthy celebrity voices. And startups like Veritone and Lovo are building their own platforms with licensing and monetization features. But similar to video deep fakes, voice AI is blurring the lines of reality and fantasy, posing important questions on what is and isn’t ethical: when can synthesized recordings be used, and does it need to be disclosed? Who needs to approve use? As a result, the rapid growth and use of this technology spurs the need for the formation of ethical use guidelines and standards.

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The Voice AI Controversy

Roadrunner, a new documentary on the late Anthony Bourdain, used voice AI technology to create three audio clips in his voice of quotes he wrote but never said out loud. Director Morgan Neville wanted Bourdain’s voice reading an email Bourdain had written , but Neville didn’t have existing recordings. He then used an undisclosed voice software company to create the synthesized audio of Bourdain. Bourdain’s widow claimed she did not give permission. More startups are exploring generating audio deepfakes and clones of real people, pushing the envelope of ethical use. Especially when the figures have passed away, creators of the new voice clips wade into a sensitive gray area that raises concerns about consent and ownership. More on CBS News

Hey Google, Join My Meeting

Google Assistant is now available for Google Workspace (formerly known as the G Suite) on Google Nest Hub smart displays and Nest smart speakers. Prior to this update, users could only access Assistant features for Workspace — like checking their calendar, joining meetings, and sending messages — on Android mobile phones. Now, users can join a meeting on their smart displays with their voice. As many companies extend their remote work schedules or adopt hybrid models, voice AI technology is searching for ways to make the WFH setup as seamless as possible. For companies like Google, it means layering their voice assistants on top of their popular productivity tools. More on 9to5Google

Fixing Your Sleep Schedule

Amazon was recently granted approval by the Federal Communications Commission to build a device that tracks sleep patterns with radar sensors. The company filed its request in June, and back in January, news revealed that the company is developing an Alexa device to monitor sleep apnea. Additionally, Google’s second edition of the Nest Hub smart display also uses radar to monitor users’ sleep trends. These developments illustrate how devices integrated with voice assistants are being reimagined for health purposes. Not only do users’ voices harbor insights into a person’s health, but devices with voice assistants can also act as new channels to glean biometric information. More on The Verge 

By The Numbers

26% of Australians ages 12+ own a smart speaker, compared to 33% of Americans. (data via Edison Research)

$575M The amount that sales tool ZoomInfo spent to acquire, an AI platform that analyzes sales conversations and provides tips.
data via TechCrunch)

Emerging Tech Stories

  • Junior Wearable. In 2019, Amazon considered building an Alexa-powered wearable with access to Amazon’s kids’ content for children.
  • Your Pay Pal. Paypal filed a patent for augmented reality glasses that can tag objects, paving the way for AR-enabled payment capabilities.
  • Always On. Apple’s upcoming iPhone later this year may have an ‘always on’ screen similar to the Apple Watch’s screen.