Emergence of text-to-speech is proving to be a crucial assistive technology tool in various fields like education, movies, and gaming. As technology advances, the text-to-speech platform is growing more sophisticated, enabling several new capabilities that would have previously been considered unimaginable.
A lot of companies across fields are aiming to capitalise on this opportunity as the trend is bound to take the working world by storm.
Based out of London, Sonantic is one such company that has taken the text-to-speech platform to the next level. The company has developed a new text-to-speech tool that creates uniquely human-sounding voices in seconds.
Interestingly, the company has also figured out how to use AI to turn written words into spoken dialogue in a script, infusing it with proper emotion. Sonantic says it’s photoshop for voice.
According to the company, the platform allows users to adjust the pacing of lines, experiment with different emotions, re-work the script, and change the inflection of phrases by altering the pitches of words.
Voice model for Val Kilmer
In the latest development, the UK startup has created a voice model for actor Val Kilmer, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 and has since undergone a tracheotomy procedure.
The award-winning Hollywood actor has difficulty communicating in a voice that is easily recognised or understood by fans. The company has created an AI-generated voice model by utilising clips of Kilmer’s voice before his illness in collaboration with the actor.
Kilmer, whose Hollywood career has spanned nearly four decades, has starred in scores of films, including blockbusters such as Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Tombstone, Batman Forever, and Heat.
“I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible,” says Val Kilmer, adding, “As human beings, the ability to communicate is the core of our existence and the side effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me. The chance to narrate my story in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift.”
Why Val Kilmer?
This announcement comes as Amazon Studios set to release Kilmer’s autobiographical documentary, Val, which touches upon the actor’s cancer battle and the physical and emotional toll it has taken on him.
During the development of the documentary, Sonantic was introduced to Kilmer’s team which led to the creation of his voice model. By turning the written word into lifelike audio, Kilmer will be able to use the model in both his professional and personal life, says the company.
“On the work front, Kilmer can take part in TV or film productions that require voiceovers or replacement dialogue that will be created by Sonantic’s easy-to-use computer app. In terms of day-to-day living, Kilmer’s voice model can serve as a personalised replacement to robotic speech generating devices,” says the company.
Sonantic’s co-founders Zeena Qureshi, CEO, and John Flynn, CTO mention in a joint statement: “It was an honour to create a voice model for Val Kilmer, whose courage and creativity is truly inspiring. This was an emotional project that demonstrates how Sonantic’s AI-generated voice models can have a positive impact on the acting community at large. We’re proud to help Val continue his craft in a way that wasn’t feasible before, and we look forward to seeing what he takes on next.”
How was Sonantic born?
Zeena Qureshi and John Flynn founded Sonantic in December 2018 after becoming good friends at Entrepreneur First.
Zeena Qureshi says, “We both had a decade of speech experience each and a deep interest in speech technology. John was technical, having specialised in speech research.”
The duo wanted to fix the text-to-speech solutions, which sounded robotic, lacking natural performance and quality. Thus, Sonantic was born.
She continues, “Fast forward to now, we have built a ‘Photoshop for voice’ with the help from our pilots in gaming and media, and have over 1000+ companies on our waiting list in under two years.”
At Sonantic, we believe, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
Sonantic: What you need to know
Headquartered in London, Sonantic has built a cutting-edge platform that creates hyper-realistic, emotionally expressive, and controllable artificial voices.
The company’s proprietary Voice Engine captures the nuances of the human voice like accents, emotions, and delivery styles. However, the process requires actors to record various lines of dialogue in a studio.
Over time, this has led to the development of new algorithms, techniques, and models that have since been incorporated back into the Voice Engine, strengthening its ability to handle difficult voice content.
Sonantic’s platform is used by various clients, including Amazon Studios, Xbox Game Studios’ Obsidian Entertainment, and Remedy Games to streamline processes and lower production costs. Last year, the company raised €2.3M in a funding round led by EQT Ventures, with participation from existing backers, including Entrepreneur First (EF), AME Cloud Ventures, and Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures.