The Slow Death of Human Narrators as Apple Releases AI-powered Audiobooks

Speech synthesis from computers has been developed in the late 50s with a certain Noriko Umeda and company developing the first English text-to-speech system in the late 60s. Although the voiced-out words were very robotic in nature, they were nevertheless recognizable and understandable. Fast forward to today’s technology, the vocal synthesizer now uses artificial intelligence instead of just synthesizing the syllables of each word in a sentence.

Many audiobooks have been made using human narrators in the past. However, thanks to today’s text-to-speech technology, we now have the capacity to release audiobooks narrated by AI. This somewhat futuristic setting was first announced in December and has now been launched by Apple. The tech giant has released its first batch of digitally narrated Apple Books, allowing publishers to automatically generate AI-vocalized narration of their books.

The audiobook market has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and many tech companies are attempting to gain a strong foothold of that market. In fact, industry insiders predict that this market will value more than $35 billion by 2030.

Apple planned to launch its audiobook project in November, but got delayed due to certain setbacks. Nevertheless, its recent release has been widely welcomed as there are plenty of iPhone and iPad users who prefer dedicated Apps from Apple. There are currently two types of AI voice available – the soprano voice called Madison, and the baritone voice called Jackson. Both AI voices have an American accent.

The voices and speech created by this AI voice synthesizer will still be somewhat robotic. While they may not sound like the popular narrators, they are a big leap to how narrators sounded just a few years back. As technology further advances, who knows several years from now if human narrators will still have their jobs…but not yet.