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As I write this, the big tech buzzword in most industries is "AI (Artificial Intelligence)." And voice over is no different. I've listened to a couple podcasts, watched a couple YouTube videos, read a couple articles and blogs on AI and voice over and what it means to the actors who populate the talent ranks. Currently the ability of Artificial Intelligence to emulate a good voice actor's read is just...eh...okay. It's not bad, it's not great but it's definitely not bad. I can still sniff out an AI voiceover over a real actor's read but my guess is that it won't take long to fix and finesse into something 'smoother'.

As of now, I'm not worried about losing work to AI. I think it's mostly going to take over lower paying jobs like telephone prompts (you know: "...to talk to the gastroenterology department, press '2'") but not really affect the substantial work like TV commercial and radio commercial voiceover. Yet. I DO think that as the technology gets better and the programming can get more sophisticated there is a definite threat to actors like me. Short of being outright replaced I think you'll see companies (that already exist actually) pay actors like me a hefty fee to seize and use our voices as they see fit. For instance, I wouldn't be surprised if you hear that a voice as recognizable as Patrick Warburton sold his voice rights (as least partially) to a company who can then input his thousands of hours of voiceover into the algorithm so that they can have his voice on whatever any client wants to pay for it. Of course, that would come with a steep initial payment to Patrick ($2-5 million?) so it'd essentially be like when famous musical acts sell their catalog to companies or investment groups. How long would the terms of these deals be? I don't know. I think initially it'd be for about a year usage but as the tech gets better and the pay becomes better this could be a lifetime thing. I hope it doesn't though.
My hope is that AI doesn't get to the point in voiceover where it can bring that 'quivering lip' of emotion to a read and REALLY make a message felt by way of a stuttered vowel or a pensive sigh in a read. My hope is that AI can help 'fill the gaps' when things like upper respiratory sickness fells an actor or maybe the actor's read on the script was missing a word that can easily be filled in by 'the machine'. As it stands now, AI is a tool but I don't think it's the solution. That said, as time goes on and as the tech gets better it's going to be something that's not only a part of our search engines but a part of our media consumption as well. Will it be like the flying car? A promise of the future that never really materialized. Or will it be like Netflix? A service/device that came in and changed the game entirely. Ultimately, it'll depend on the end user. If people watching TV or listening to podcasts/radio hear a slightly stilted and 'off' human voice urging them to help out this charity, or buy that product, and they are moved enough to do so, it won't matter if the voice is that of Moose or MooseAlgarithm35.execute

PS. The thumbnail image was partially created with AI.

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