Audio editor software

OpenAI developing voice cloning software

Political impact of technology could be significant as US election looms
Image:Jerson Varga via Pexels

2 April 2024

ChatGPT developer OpenAI is working on software to clone human voices, an innovation that could transform how films, shows and other content is consumed in foreign languages, but one that is also being seen as a threat to democracy.

“Voice Engine […] uses text input and a single 15-second audio sample to generate natural-sounding speech that closely resembles the original speaker,” the US company announced.

OpenAI said it has been developing software since 2022 designed to convert text into speech. However, it remains to be seen if and when Voice Engine will be available to the general public.

OpenAI has admitted that, especially in an election year, such an application brings considerable risks.

Due to the fear this software could be misused, the company is “taking a cautious and informed approach” to a broader release. OpenAI is seeking debate on the opportunities and risks of the technology and wants to carry out further tests.

In January, fake phone calls fuelled fears of manipulation using artificial intelligence in the race for the White House.

In automated calls, a voice that sounded very similar to that of US President Joe Biden called on Democrats in New Hampshire not to take part in the primaries. Such so-called robocalls are a common election campaign tool in the US.

Despite the clear risks OpenAI believes there are also opportunities offered by this kind of technology. Together with a partner, OpenAI has been researching how synthetic voices can support people learning to read. Voice Engine also has potential for translating films and podcasts with the voice of original actors or speakers.

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