AI to take over the voice of Darth Vader

Artificial intelligence startup offers Star Wars way to continue voice of iconic character

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 26 September 2022 14:01 BST
An AI voice clone is set to replace James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader
An AI voice clone is set to replace James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader (Wikimedia Commons)

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Artificial intelligence will take over one of the most iconic voices in the history of film after the actor who voiced Darth Vader signed over the rights to his voice to an AI startup.

James Earl Jones, who made his debut as the Star Warsvillain in 1977, reportedly agreed to allow Ukrainian firm Respeecher to clone his voice and record new lines for the Disney-owned films and series.

At 91-years-old, Mr Earl Jones told sound engineers that he “was looking into winding down”, according to a report from Vanity Fair, allowing them to explore new ways to keep the character going.

The voice cloning technology has already been put to use in Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Disney Plus mini series that came out this year.

The series used an AI-generated voice that was based on how Mr Earl Jones sounded in the original films from 45 years ago, rather than later versions like in 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker film.

Respeecher’s technology was also used for a younger version of Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian.

The startup claims that just 1-2 hours of quality recordings are enough to clone a person’s voice using its speech synthesis software.

The technology is also being tested on laryngeal cancer patients to offer real-time voice replacements through electronic voice boxes.

The creation of a voice that is indistinguishable from the original will allow franchises to keep going long after the original cast members are no longer able to work, however it also raises concerns about AI-powered deep fake technologies.

Respeecher acknowledged in a press release that synthetic media could be “harmful in the wrong hands” and said that it was working on how to control it.

“The widespread attention and adoption of deepfake technologies will accelerate the need to regulate the se of the technology,” the startup wrote.

“Respeecher always prioritises eliminating the possibility of others being harmed by deepfake technologies, which cannot be done without uniting various media industry players and stakeholders around the goal of adopting synthetic media technologies in the most ethical way.”

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