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How AI is Changing the World of Audio Technology

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have opened opportunities for brands and publications to reach broader markets by creating new moments of engagement and enhancing established ones. This trend is particularly true when it comes to leveraging audio. From automotive and media to healthcare and packaged goods, every industry can benefit from utilizing these automated capabilities and formulating a proactive audio strategy.

Consider the populations that would connect better and more frequently through the use of AI-generated, automated text-to-speech, and language translation services: 

Likewise, in today’s busy world, everyone multitasks. The functionality of audio is without rival because it enables content to reach audiences when they’re driving, exercising, and cleaning the house. Companies are expanding from their more traditional platforms and into moments of their listeners’ lives they couldn’t touch before, thereby strengthening their brands.

With the evolution of AI in audio technology, the voice of a brand has gone from a figurative term to a literal sound. The monotone, robotic voices of the past have faded into the background. Now, the differences between a human voice and one generated by AI are almost indistinguishable. Created for audiobooks, text readers, chatbots, video games, and more, the current generation of AI voices convey emotion, inflection, tone, warmth, and personality.

In a study by Trinity Audio, people were asked to listen to eight different voices that were reading the same text and distinguish between which were human and AI-generated. The research revealed that 25 percent of the voices were identified as being human, 25 percent were labeled as AI, and the remaining 50 percent were evenly split – some said they were AI and some voted human.

In truth, all the voices were AI-powered. The results provide evidence of many peoples’ biases regarding AI voices, as well as how far voice technology has advanced.

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Using deep neural networks (DNN), which identify and imitate detailed speech patterns, AI can also clone a voice with less than 5 seconds worth of audio. Programs can mimic pronunciation, speed, rhythm, tone, and stress of speech. The result: The voice of a brand, be it a celebrity like James Earl Jones or a brand mascot like Tony the Tiger, can now live on indefinitely. Similar methods can create a custom voice unique to a brand, allowing for region-specific terminology, accents, and dialects. 

Certain brands have found great success through the development of a brand voice. Bank of America introduced Erica, an AI-generated virtual assistant, in 2018. In the first quarter of 2019, they reported 6.3 million Erica users with 16.5 million interactions. By the first quarter of 2021, those numbers rose to 19.5 users with 105.6 million interactions.

AI has also grown to ensure audio technology is always within earshot. No longer bound by the speakers at a desk computer, the brand’s voice can be heard in the company’s mobile app, chatbot, television / radio commercials, online ads, in-store kiosks, voicemails, and more. Publications and brands also can use this advanced audio technology to translate current online content from a website and blog into AI-voice-generated podcasts that can be hosted everywhere from your website to Spotify. With Nielsen Scarborough data predicting the total podcasting audience to double between 2020 and 2023 and advertising revenues to be more than $1 billion, brands may find now to be the opportune time to use AI audio technology and venture into this platform.

Just as AI enables audio technology to go anywhere, it is also changing it from a one-way road to a two-way street. The future of AI audio technology is moving from a monologue to a dialog. This means not only having listeners’ preferred content being read to them, but also enabling a voice interface to control the experience and discover more through voice queries. This goes beyond interactions with a virtual assistant and now includes marketing campaigns. Currently, a Pepsi audio ad running on iHeartRadio interacts with listeners, enabling them to use their voices to share what flavors they prefer.

Extending into AI-powered audio technology also creates space for opportunities. Audio advertising messaging is as native as podcast advertising, using AI voices to deliver content and branded communications. Publishers can provide new platforms and methods for their marketing partners to advertise with messaging spaced at different times during the delivery of the content.  And just as online search engines and publications recommend other articles that might fit the interests of the reader, AI voices can direct listeners to other available posted audio content.

The comfort and reliance on audio technology have become ingrained in today’s culture with voice assistants like Siri and Alexa. Vocal interaction is a growing expectation. Now, with AI, publications and brands can integrate these AI-driven audio platforms in efficient, accessible, and impactful ways. With the voice of their brand amplified, companies will see increased brand recognition and customer loyalty, and they’ll have AI to thank for it.

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[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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