The Voice of Reason | Womble Bond Dickinson

This technology has existed for years, as anyone knows who watched the famous deep fake internet memes of Barack Obama bogus speeches. AI can start with relatively small samples of a person’s vocal pattern, build out models of how that voice would sound pronouncing many words, and use the model speech-pattern library to generate an unlimited variety of words in the speaker’s language. This library can then be the source of vocal presentation to answer questions or read text. Now some companies are considering how to personalize their responses.

The voice-capture and parroting technology was just unveiled at Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, is in development, and could allow the Amazon virtual assistant to sound like any person based on less than a minute of spoken recording of that person’s voice.

But what if that person doesn’t want their voice to serve Amazon as a digital voice slave, saying anything that the company decides it wants you to hear? People could object. Of course, dead people cannot object. There may be commercial reasons for objection, where Barry White may not want his dulcet tones to fill a million bedrooms with interactive discussion for free. Celebrities should be able to sell to their own voices for your home digital operations. But many people would simply find the concept of shilling for Amazon or Apple distasteful and creepy, demanding that their voices to remain within their own control.

According to NBC News’ website, “Amazon’s push comes as competitor Microsoft earlier this week said it was scaling back its synthetic voice offerings and setting stricter guidelines to “ensure the active participation of the speaker” whose voice is recreated. Microsoft said Tuesday it is limiting which customers get to use the service — while also continuing to highlight acceptable uses such as an interactive Bugs Bunny character at AT&T stores.” Presumably Mel Blanc or another voice actor has approved this message.

Amazon hopes that interacting with Amazon technology through a familiar voice will build greater trust with Alexa by capturing more “human attributes of empathy and affect.” However, this seems like unearned and unwarranted trust. By simply mimicking a human voice that is important to you, Amazon expects the trust you have built in decades with your mother can transfer to Amazon, in what may be the most cynical business move I have ever considered. Yes, the up-selling message is coming from Amazon (“You haven’t signed up yet for your Amazon music account”), but it sounds like Grandma – you trust Grandma, don’t you?

By simply mimicking a human voice that is important to you, Amazon expects the trust you have built in decades with your mother can transfer to Amazon, in what may be the most cynical business move I have ever considered.