Google Deepmind develops most realistic sounding AI yet

neural networks explain themselves avaexmachina
A24
While subtle, one of the biggest advances portrayed in movies like Her or Ex Machina was that the AI began to really sound like a fellow human. And in the realm of real-life tech, Google’s AI focus in recent years has similarly been to make computers sound more like us. And they’re getting much better at it.

The latest development to come out of Google’s Deepmind AI is called WaveNet and it samples different parts of human speech and models its own waveforms after the way they sound. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re definitely getting closer to voices that sound like they come from a person’s mouth, rather than from a computer’s speaker.

While it still sounds strange, the new AI speech certainly flows better than the kinds of responses you’ll get from Siri or Cortana, which chop up human speech and paste it back together in a way that makes individual pronunciations correct, but the flow of the speech is completely off. (That technique is known as concatenative text to speech, just so you know.)

The WaveNet option flows much better because it uses something called parametric text to speech, which generates it from scratch. Where it differs from traditional uses of that technique though is that Google’s AI models its audio on the waveforms of real human voices.

That’s difficult, because typically there are around 16,000 potential voice samples to be taken with every second of speech — that takes a lot of processing power to handle. To cut back on that, WaveNet uses a prediction engine to estimate what sample should come next in natural speech, using everything that has gone before as a guide.

The results are impressive. To give you a comparison, here’s a classic concatenative text-to-speech system:

That sounds like the sort of digital assistant voices we’re become used to in recent years. But here’s the new WaveNet system that Google has developed:

The cadence of the speech is much more realistic and though there is a general fuzziness to the audio, it’s not hard to imagine that being cleaned up post development.

The process can even be used to simulate different kinds of voices, for example, male and female:

The only problem now is that even though its predictions reduce the amount of required processing for this technique, it still takes too much processing to imagine standard smartphone hardware being capable of doing it in real time. At least for now.

For more information on these techniques, Google’s blog post offers a lot more detail and samples and it even posted a couple of papers on it here.

Mobile

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Gaming

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Photography

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.
Computing

Leaked HP laptop listing reveals entry-level Nvidia MX250 GPU

Alongside powerful graphics cards, Nvidia may have more mobile GPUs to show off at next year's CES show in January. The MX250 has been spotted in a listing for an HP laptop, potentially replacing the entry-level MX150.
Computing

ZSpace’s laptop brings education to life with its own 3D technology

The ZSpace laptop wants to overhaul education and training by offering affordable access to 3D mixed reality through a bespoke screen and glasses technology that is already supported by a wide array of applications.
Computing

Former Microsoft intern claims Google may have sabotaged Edge browser

Google's Chrome web browser has been able to establish such dominance that Microsoft is abandoning its web rendering engine, switching Edge over to Chromium, but did Google play dirty in an attempt to force Microsoft to make the decision?
Computing

ViewSonic’s 1080p gaming monitor lets you experience the action in style

ViewSonic is catering to gamers with its latest monitor, the XG240R. Featuring a 1080p 144Hz panel, RGB lighting, and a fast 1ms response time, you can conquer your opponents and do it in style.
Computing

Here’s why you might still be using Wi-Fi after cellular 5G launches

Cellular 5G might be around the corner and promising to deliver lightning fast speeds, but the folks over at the Wi-Fi Alliance have a few reasons why they think you shouldn't dump Wi-Fi just yet.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.
Computing

Detangle your desk with a mighty wireless mouse. Here are our six favorites

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. These six models have something for everyone, whether you're a hardcore gamer or simply looking to ward off carpal tunnel.
Web

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.