In the last half a century, the increase in global technological prowess has boomed loud across many industries. Every day there seems to be more and more capabilities computers and other tech have access to including AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, voice and facial recognition, and even text-to-sound (TTS).
Computers, usually in the form of robots, are now charged with managing and dispensing prescriptions, filling out mundane paperwork, and handling numerous tasks once done by humans alone. But those are all technical or manual labor related tasks, right? What could that mean for VO talent and for other artists, like actors, writers, and painters?
Well, it can mean a few things both positive and negative. One negative is the switch from manual craft in the arts to the use of automated systems. An example of this is the use of electronic voices in place of actual human voices for National Weather Service broadcasts since 2014. Likewise, some of the most successful and profitable movies of all time are animated films like Frozen and the Toy Story franchise.
This escalating drift towards using AI and digital personas for entertainment could mean actors, especially voice over actors, facing an industry ruled by robotic or computerized replacements. However, there is some good news to help ease the transition.
According to the Chief Technology Officer at DreamWorks, Ed Leonard, the industry does not see the rise of tech to be an actual threat to the actor’s craft. He advised that there is no replacing raw talent in entertainment and that technology is nowhere near human enough to fully replace actors. This is a fair point since while digital technology is getting more and more lifelike, like Amazon’s Alexa or Siri, there is still a distinct difference between those computerized voices and a real live person.
For the time being, innovation is actually more of a help to VO talent than a hindrance. Digital recording can clean up voices, remove extra noises that take away from a final product, and help match real voices to computerized or animated stories. Even in areas that could be easily switched up like broadcasts, audiobooks, and the radio, studies show consumers prefer the voice of an actual person to a synthesized AI person.
Voice actors are safe for the time being. Only time will tell what comes next.