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Google Launches More Realistic Text-To-Speech Service Powered By DeepMind's AI (theverge.com) 34

Google is launching a new AI voice synthesizer, named Cloud Text-to-Speech, that will be available for any developer or business that needs voice synthesis on tap, whether that's for an app, website, or virtual assistant. The Cloud Text-to-Speech service is being powered by WaveNet, software created by Google's UK-based AI subsidiary DeepMind. The Verge explains why this is significant: First, ever since Google bought DeepMind in 2014, it's been exploring ways to turn the company's AI talent into tangible products. So far, this has meant using DeepMind's algorithms to reduce electricity costs in Google's data centers by 40 percent and DeepMind's forays into health care. But, directly integrating WaveNet into its cloud service is arguably more significant, especially as Google tries to win cloud business away from Amazon and Microsoft, presenting its AI skills as its differentiating factor. Second, DeepMind's AI voice synthesis tech is some of the most advanced and realistic in the business. Most voice synthesizers (including Apple's Siri) use what's called concatenative synthesis, in which a program stores individual syllables -- sounds such as "ba," "sht," and "oo" -- and pieces them together on the fly to form words and sentences. This method has gotten pretty good over the years, but it still sounds stilted.

WaveNet, by comparison, uses machine learning to generate audio from scratch. It actually analyzes the waveforms from a huge database of human speech and re-creates them at a rate of 24,000 samples per second. The end result includes voices with subtleties like lip smacks and accents. When Google first unveiled WaveNet in 2016, it was far too computationally intensive to work outside of research environments, but it's since been slimmed down significantly, showing a clear pipeline from research to product.
The Verge has embedded some samples in their report to see how WaveNet sounds.
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Google Launches More Realistic Text-To-Speech Service Powered By DeepMind's AI

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  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @09:44PM (#56338395) Homepage

    Given Google's history of taking things away, I would not build anything that depends on this. It will probably disappear in a year.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Nope, you might not be able to access it in a year bet you can bet three letter agencies will be wanting to use it to covert all your, and I do mean all of 'YOU', spoken words into data mine able transcripts, welcome to the panopticon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] brought to you by the lets be evil company, watching 'YOU' all of the time, trying to control 'YOU' all of the time.

      How many hours or days in the week, should you be spending, disconnected, to remain free.

      • you can bet three letter agencies will be wanting to use it to covert all your, and I do mean all of 'YOU', spoken words into data mine able transcripts

        I'll take that bet, and win. RTFA, or RTFS, or even RTFH. This is text-to-speech, not speech-to-text.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      It's not just Google that does this. Amazon bought the Ivona TTS system and completely killed it for anyone other than users of the Kindle Fire who want to use the Ivona voices that ship with it.

      I have to admit Sallli is an amazing TTS voice on the Fire; sure wish I could use it on my Android phone. I've tried different ways of extracting it but haven't had any luck.

  • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @10:08PM (#56338509) Homepage

    Hopefully, the Tech Awakening we're experiencing in the US at a consumer level might trickle upwards into actual products as well.

    No way in hell I'm going to rely on something I have to use a remote service for, which is no doubt collecting and storing as many bits of data as possible. I don't need human-sounding-voice *that* badly that I can't wait for someone to figure out how to get 95% of this does and run on a few cores, or perhaps spare GPU capacity.

    • by pthisis ( 27352 )

      I mostly agree, though if the license on the generated audio is liberal enough I could see using this to create audio books of public domain texts in a crowd-sourced project. Feed the texts through (which, if distributed reasonably, shouldn't really be a significant privacy intrusion; the information's all out there already) and then save it for future use so it's still available even if the cloud service goes down.

  • by DavenH ( 1065780 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @10:10PM (#56338519)
    These voices are quite a far cry from the results of the original wavenet paper. I suppose a lot of computational tradeoffs happened, but these are Siri-level, not human level.
    • It's way beyond Siri. In fact non WaveNet powered Google Assistant is slightly better and less robotic than Siri
  • I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
  • Great! (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @10:51PM (#56338663)

    I'll finally figure out how to pronounce 'doge'.

  • The Verge has embedded some samples in their report to hear how WaveNet sounds.
  • If you check the competitor voice generation in the article it's also pretty good. Things have improved since Radiohead's depressing song 'Fitter Happier'
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Why 'cloud' when local works well?

    $ sudo aptitude install libttspico-utils

    $ pico2wave -w h.wav "Hello World"

    $ aplay h.wav

Overload -- core meltdown sequence initiated.

Working...