AI voice clone: Vanity Fair reports that Ukrainian tech company Respeecher has used AI technology to clone  James Earl Jones’ iconic Darth Vader voice for Disney+’s newest Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Lucasfilm supervising sound editor Matthew Wood had recorded James Earl Jones’ as Darth Vader at least a dozen times. His most recent recording for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. But around that time, the now 91-year-old Jones discussed that his time as the character was coming to an end. (We’re not crying, you are).

The team at Lucasfilm started to look for ways to keep his iconic voice going in what they hoped would be many more years of Star Wars production.

They found the answer with Ukraine-based tech company Respeecher. The team combined Jones’ signed-off archival recordings with their proprietary AI algorithm to create new dialogues. Wood said that the AI techniques added an “elusive human touch” that kept the age-old audios synthetically alive. It made it possible to eternalize that voice we all know and love.

While Jones’ step back meant that he couldn’t be as directly involved as he once was, he still helped bring his character to life. In the franchise’s latest, Obi-Wan Kenobi, he guided the team’s depiction of the dark side villain.

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Ukraine’s strength

Amid war, Lucasfilm was delicate in handling their requests, but Respeecher’s attitude was inspiring:

“Let’s work, let’s work in the face of this adversity, let’s persevere.”

Respeecher CEO and Co-Founder Alex Serdiuk told Vanity Fair, “We create places to work for people, we create jobs, we pay them money, we contribute to the Ukrainian economy, and that’s quite meaningful”.

He emphasized how Obi-Wan Kenobi could provide a fleeting movement of celebration for Ukraine’s resilience as a united country of people who support one another. A nation that continues to get up and go to work every day against all odds. He hoped this venture would help the world hear about Ukraine’s stoic determination.

As for ‘altering the deal‘, AI techniques and voice cloning technology will not always be limited to Respeecher’s labs. Like much of the Metaverse’s pillar technologies, the world is catching up. It’s likely only a matter of time before these galactic tyrant-inspired capabilities will no longer be in a galaxy far, far away. 

Happy retirement, James Earl Jones. It seems that Artificial Intelligence is now the ‘master‘ – and a most fitting way to carry on the legacy of the world’s most infamous cybernetically-augmented human. And as for Ukraine? May the force be with you.

Article written by Hannah Clayton, Exarta.