By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO
As someone who enjoys listening to interesting podcasts, I was excited at my recent invitation to be a guest on This Week in Voice. Now in its seventh season, this podcast is hosted by Bradley Metrock, CEO of Project Voice and covers some of the hottest conversational AI news stories of the week.
I joined the podcast’s panel of experts for Season 7, Episode 3 which was released on 29 September 2022. Bradley led us in a discussion of these four news stories:
- Siri, Alexa and Google Home make children rude, anti-social: study (NY Post)
- Here are the new features Amazon is adding to Alexa (Engadget)
- Conversational AI is asking for ethical oversight: How can Humans best answer the call? (European Business Review)
- Darth Vader will be voiced by AI after star James Earl Jones signs over rights to iconic role (The Sun)
Listen to the full episode below (or on YouTube here or wherever you get your podcasts) for my discussion with Bradley, Timo Kunz, and Sean McIlrath. Here are a few thoughts that stuck out for me from our conversation.
In the timeline of human history, voice-first applications like Siri and Alexa are very recent developments. I can’t help but wonder how they will impact the way we interact in the future as younger generations grow up not experiencing a time when they didn’t exist. It will be important as parents, and a society, to consciously balance the use of these technologies with human interactions, like making sure our children are still going to playgroup and engaging with their peers in person.
However, there are great use cases for this type of technology that can benefit our lives, such as alleviating loneliness and helping people find the help or information they need to deal with sensitive situations. They can also better our day-to-day lives with seemingly little things like checking the local weather or setting a timer when our hands are messy while cooking dinner. Yet not all the newest features being added by companies reflect use cases that are likely to become commonly used.
When it comes to discussing the ethical oversight of conversational AI, it’s important to first start with identifying the way it is being implemented. There are still lots of varying ideas around what ‘conversational AI’ is, and without a consensus you can’t identify an overarching ethical code. For example, Creative Virtual’s conversational AI technology uses a hybrid approach to AI in which there is no black box. Having this human-in-the-loop approach takes away many of the ethical concerns of a machine learning-only conversational AI solution.
I’m personally excited that James Earl Jones will continue to be the voice of Darth Vader through the power of AI, but not at all surprised by the capabilities of this technology. Creative Virtual was delivering this type of solution with a specialised voice partner 15-20 years ago for some of our avatars. This story does bring up the ethical oversight question again, though. It would be interesting to get a look at the contract to understand the specifics of how Jones’ voice can be used for the character.
Thanks again to Bradley, Timo, and Sean for the great discussion! Check out the full This Week in Voice episode: