When Red Dead Redemption 2, an open-world PlayStation 4 game, was developed in 2013, it took 2,200 days to record the 1,200 voices in the game with 700 voice actors, who recited the 500,000 lines of dialogue. It was a massive feat that is nearly impossible for any other studio to replicate, let alone a games studio smaller than Rockstar Games. But with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), it is becoming easier and easier to recreate human voices to create automated real-time responses, near-limitless dialogue options, and speech tailored to a user’s unique input. However, this technology raises ethical questions about the synthesising of voices.
Replica Studios, an Australian software developer, rolled out a voice synthesiser platform for games developers in 2019, a tool used by Australian games developer PlaySide Studios in their game Age of Darkness: Final Stand. According to Shreyas Nivas, the CEO of Replica Studios, recording every line of dialogue individually is “so inefficient from a cost perspective, but also from a time perspective, and you need to have these huge teams.”
Replica has licensed the voices of 120 actors for use in video games, which are capable of up to 1,000 different vocal tones, according to the company. The company has also implemented content moderation policies for the use of voices in scams or illicit content. Nivas says it is still a learning process as AI accelerates, but he believes the acceleration should continue.
Benefits of AI Voice Synthesisers
One of the primary benefits of AI voice synthesisers is that they reduce the cost and time of recording every line of dialogue. Instead of recording every line of dialogue individually, AI can recreate human voices, saving both time and money. AI voice synthesisers also allow for endless dialogue options and provide tailored speech for users.
Replica Studios’ AI Voice Synthesiser Platform
In 2019, the Australian software developer Replica Studios launched a voice synthesiser platform for game developers. The tool is used by Australian game developer PlaySide Studios in their game Age of Darkness: Final Stand. Shreyas Nivas, the chief executive of Replica Studios, believes that AI voice synthesising is the future of the gaming industry, as it is much more efficient and cost-effective than recording every line of dialogue individually.
Replica Studios has licensed the voices of 120 actors for use in video games, which are capable of up to 1,000 different vocal tones. The licensing model used by Replica Studios allows actors to keep earning from the use of their voice, even when they are not in a studio recording. Nivas believes that while larger video game companies will probably still employ high-profile talent, AI will give smaller game studios easier access to voices, and give early-career actors more work.
However, the use of AI voice synthesising in the gaming industry raises ethical questions. There are now free online voice synthesiser tools that can be used to mimic celebrities’ or film and TV character voices, often without the permission of those artists. Bloomberg reported this month that some voice actors were “shocked” to discover their voice being used in content they had not participated in. This has raised concerns about the impact AI will have on voice acting and music. The Japan Performing Arts Workers’ Association recently held a press conference calling for legislation to protect their jobs.
The use of AI voice synthesising also raises concerns about content moderation. Replica Studios has implemented content moderation policies for the use of voices in scams or illicit content. Nivas believes that as AI accelerates, it is still a learning process, but the acceleration should continue. “There’s a lot of this where we don’t know the outcome, but the best we can do is be wary of how we go forward. But keep going forward,” he said.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union that represents actors in Australia, has yet to formulate a policy focused specifically on AI’s impact on acting. However, a spokesperson for the union said that actors must retain ownership of their voices, and that the promise of AI should not come at the cost of quality, meaningful work for performers. The spokesperson urged producers to engage with performers’ representatives in this emerging field of technology.